PROGRESS

2009

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

Not long after moving from Charleston, South Carolina, to Columbus, Karen Jonason was diagnosed with cancer.
Immediately, she started making plans to return to Charleston for treatment. But one visit to the Hematology and Oncology Associates’ Columbus office changed her mind. With an unsurpassed dedication to patients and a commitment to the latest treatment and technology, their team is leading the way in the fight against cancer. And the best part—you’ll find it all right here at home. “This place got me through many dark days. I highly recommend it to anyone facing cancer.”

HEMATOLOGY AND ONCOLOGY ASSOCIATES AT COLUMBUS
Charles W. Montgomery, M.D. Julian M.D. • Andrew H. Kellum, M.D. • Christopher C. Croot, Croot, David Brian N. Walker, D.O. David Moazzam, M.D., Charles W. Montgomery, M.D. • Julian B. Hill, B. Hill, M.D. Andrew H. Kellum, M.D. Christopher C.M.D. • M.D. G. Morris, M.D. • Dr. NaumanG. Morris, M.D. M.S. Formerly North Mississippi Hematology and Oncology Associates

clinics also located in:

Columbus
M I S S I S S I P P I

A Cultural Collection

Mark your calendar now because Historic Columbus never stops celebrating with a year-round schedule of excitement and fun. Our activities run (and fly, drive, even ski) the gamut – fairs to festivals and more.
69th Annual Spring Pilgrimage and Tales from the Crypt
March 30-April 11 May 1-2

7th Avenue Heritage Festival
October 1-3

Ghosts & Legends Tour
October 23-24

Market Street Festival Juneteenth Celebration
June 18-20

Decorative Arts and Preservation Forum and Antiques Show and Sale
November 5-8

Tennessee Williams Tribute & Tour of Victorian Homes
September 10-13

Wassail Fest
December 4

CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

800-327-2686 • www.columbus-ms.org

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TABLE OF

CONTENTS
6 8 14 16 20 24 28 36

From the Editor Room to Grow New and Improved
Lowndes County Oktibbeha County Clay County

State of the Arts

24

New Faces in Familiar Places A New (School) Day

ABOUT THE

COVER

Against a background of present-day downtown Columbus, a 1918 postcard of the same cityscape shows crowded sidewalks and a Main Street clogged with Model T’s. While the facades between Fourth and Market streets have changed little in the ensuing 90 years, their occupants and owners have. Both pictures, the postcard and the larger image, were taken atop a building at the corner of Main and Fifth, formerly Market, streets. The postcard photograph was made by Joseph Hanna and published by Divelbiss Bookstore. The cover photo was taken by Dispatch photographer Kelly Tippett. The postcard comes from the collection of Carolyn Burns.
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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

Presidential Proving Ground Photo Essay: Layered Images MUWho? The Castle Touch After The Storm Distinctive Destination Celebrated Lives The Big Screen Leaving Their Mark Battle of the Bulge From Europe to the Bayou and Home Again

44 48 52 58 62 66 71 76 82 87 92

Celebrating 20 Great Years!

Party Supplies • Stationery Gifts • Pottery • Scrapbook Supplies Gourmet Foods & Coffees • Children’s Gifts Mississippi Made Products

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218 Fifth Street South Historic Downtown Columbus Monday-Saturday 9:00-5:30

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PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

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COLUMBUS MAYOR & CITY COUNCIL
From left: Gene Taylor, Ward One; Jerry Kendall, Ward Six; Susan Mackay, Ward Two; Fred Stewart, Ward Four; Mayor Robert E. Smith; Jay Jordan, Ward Five; Gene Coleman, Ward Three.

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

COLUMBUS-LOWNDES DEVELOPMENT LINK
...the ...the right style for your business.
Being a member of The LINK can make your business grow. We have so much to offer you.
By being a member of The LINK you will:
• Gain new clients or customers for your business. Gain knowledge from informative • meetings, newsletters and other business owners within The LINK. LINK. • Become aware of what is happening in our community. • Be part of many important projects that enhance our business and community.
4

Whether you are a small business or large corporation... Whether you are a newly started business or a business that has been here since your grandfather was the owner... Whether you own a small tractor store or a large accounting firm...

The LINK is the right style for you and your business.
The Columbus-Lowndes Development LINK is an association of business people concerned about improving the area in which they do business: the area in which they live; the area in which they have made their greatest investments.

Please give us a call at (662) 328-8369 or visit our website at www.cldlink.org if you and your business are interested in joining The LINK today.

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

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Achieving
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Columbus School District
2630 McArthur Drive • Columbus, Mississippi 39705 • 662.241.7400 www.columbuscityschools.org

FROM THE

EDITOR
THE NEXT STEP
insolvency and hundreds of thousands of Americans join the ranks of the unemployed. While the crisis has touched us here in the Golden Triangle, the effects have been less severe. That’s not to say area companies aren’t laying off employees, or that 401(k)s have shrunk for those fortunate enough to have them, or that commerce in general hasn’t slowed. Like all dark clouds, this one has some silver. The financial contractions have forced us as individuals, families and businesses to re-examine our priorities at every level. For those fortunate enough to be working, we no longer take our jobs for granted. We question expenditures we once never thought twice about. Many of us have refocused our priorities to the things that mean most: home, family, community. We’ve heard reports of first-time vegetable gardeners. As an amateur beekeeper, I have a renewed appreciation for my backyard charges who consistently produce high yields regardless the vagaries of the financial markets. Positive, high-profile developments aplenty are occurring in our readership area. We’ve highlighted some of them in this issue. The turnaround of the Columbus Public Schools is a success story we should all be proud of. In late spring, ground will be broken on a new middle school. A dynamic and precedent-setting magnet school program is finishing its first year. Developer Mark Castleberry continues to make his imprint on the commercial and retail landscape of Columbus and Starkville. Castleberry has made his mark transforming old, unloved strip centers into vibrant retail areas. He’s moved on to historic renovation; he’s building motels and even a downtown office building for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. In Starkville, planning continues for the CottonMill Marketplace, an innovative blend of residential and retail development in a historic building. Mississippi State University has two dynamic new leaders in its president, Mark Keenum, and head football coach, Dan Mullen. Both of these men bring a fresh energy to an institution that is an integral part of the region. Mississippi University for Women is celebrating its 125th year while it searches for a new gender-neutral name, and Lowndes County seems finally to be making headway on what has been a seemingly endless quest for a sportsplex. While the world is changing all around us, Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer has never been more relevant: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” May we all live with courage and wisdom. Birney Imes

Tanner Imes

L

ast summer when we chose a theme for the 2009 Progress Edition, the world was a very different place. We selected “The next step” because we wanted to focus on how we’re absorbing and responding to the rapid growth of the past five years. Like everyone else, we continue to watch with amazement and disbelief as world financial markets contract, venerable institutions struggle with

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

PROGRESS 2009
THE NEXT STEP
Editor and Publisher
BIRNEY IMES
A publication of The Commercial Dispatch

The place to shop...

Managing Editor
STEVE MULLEN

GARTHIA ELENA BURNETT LEIGH YARBOROUGH ADRIAN BOHANNON JOHN MOTT COFFEY WADE H. LEONARD KRISTIN MAMRACK TIM PRATT DANNY P. SMITH JAN SWOOPE NEAL WAGNER SARAH WILSON TANNER IMES LUISA PORTER JOE RAY ROBERSON KELLY TIPPETT SANDRA GORDON

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Photography by Video Services & Photography, Amy Eairheart

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PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

ROOM TO

In a time of economic uncertainty, Lowndes industrial park teeming with business T NEAL WAGNER P KELLY TIPPETT
EXT BY HOTOS BY

GROW
D
“We are not talking about cut, snip and sew jobs; we are talking about highly technical jobs that pay good money,” Columbus-Lowndes Development Link Chief Executive Officer Joe Higgins said of the nearly 450 new jobs created in 2008. “We experienced about $490 million in capital improvements in the county last year,” Higgins added. “Most of that came in the industrial park near the (Golden Triangle Regional) Airport, and at the west bank port on the (Tennessee-Tombigbee) Waterway.” In 2008, the county saw the construction of the more than 400,000square-foot Paccar plant, the near completion of a 100,000-square-foot spec building, the construction of the Stark Aerospace manufacturing plant in Columbus and expansions at American Eurocopter and Aurora Flight Sciences.

espite being a year many will remember as a time of economic uncertainty, 2008 paid big dividends to workers, business owners and economic developers throughout Lowndes County.

Columbus-Lowndes Development Link Chief Executive Officer Joe Higgins, left, talks with Paccar Plant Manager Lex Lemmers.

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

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Developers in 2008 also saw the beginning of an expansion at Severstal and the completion of the Tenn-Tom west bank port and barge mooring area. “Of course, there are smaller businesses that help to support all of those industries, too. The larger the industry gets, the more support it draws to the area,” Higgins said. “All in all, it was a very good year to be in business in Lowndes County.” Although last year saw many economic developments, Higgins and Lowndes County Port Authority Director John Hardy agreed a pair of projects played a “big role” in defining the year’s business climate. “You see a lot of things happened last year, but Paccar was definitely our biggest project of 2008,” Higgins explained. “They started construction on that site in November 2007 and had nearly the entire structure completed by November 2008.” Along the Tenn-Tom Waterway, the west bank port project dominated talks at the Port Authority, said Hardy. “The major thing in ’08 was the construction of the new port on the west bank of the river,” said Hardy.

“That port went into service about a year ago this February. Last year, they offloaded just under half a million tons of scrap, pig iron and other raw materials, mostly used by local industries.” The port, operated by Kinder Morgan, features a 50-foot-tall ECrane, which is able to unload entire barges filled with various metals with a few scoops. The metals then are transported by truck to the county industrial park on Airport Road — the site of a monolithic new structure Higgins calls the “defining project of 2008.” “It sits on a 400-acre plot of land and has employed up to 250 construction workers and contractors just during the building phase,” Higgins said of the Paccar building, visible from Highway 82. “This project not only encompasses the building, but also an entire network of sewer lines, utilities and roads,” Higgins added. “We are lucky to have them here. They have had a quarterly profit for the past 69 years in a row.” Once the plant is completed late this year, a crew of hundreds of workers will begin constructing 12.9-liter

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

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CASH & CARRY BUILDING SUPPLIES

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Service • Quality • Variety
Building contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners appreciate quality merchandise, selection and friendly service. Add expertise and more than 100 years of combined experience, and it’s easy to see why Cash & Carry Building Supply at 1120 Gardner Blvd. is a preferred place to shop for building materials. Cash & Carry stocks virtually everything needed to complete a home, building or remodeling job. In fact, the staff will analyze house plans and give cost estimates on materials needed for construction and finishing. Known for their incredible service, Cash & Carry has a knowledgeable staff, they deliver and accept all major credit cards for your convenience. Cash & Carry stands behind what it sells, and takes personal interest in customers, because many of them are friends and neighbors. It is a locally owned and managed business, and it is committed to this community. Owners Bill McBryde and Charles Shelton take pride in their staff, led by Manager Randall Grant, who has been with the company 37 years. Avery Duncan 34 years; Charles Williams, 33 years; Jim Key 33 years; Lindy McBryde, 12 years; Steve Lindsey 17 years; Tommy Betts, 10 years; and bookkeepers Dorothy Tarlton and Diane Lollar.

Joe Higgins, ColumbusLowndes Development Link CEO

diesel engines for Peterbilt, Kenworth and DAF trucks. “This will be Paccar’s only engine plant in North America,” explained Plant Manager Lex Lemmers. “The building structure is nearly complete now, but we still must install the equipment in the plant. “Each piece of equipment to be put in the plant will first go to Detroit to be tested before it is shipped down here,” Lemmers added. Although area economic development likely will take a hit as the national economy continues to decline in 2009, several large industries have expressed this year interest in locating to Lowndes County, said Higgins. “I can’t name any specific names right now,” Higgins said, “but I can tell you that we have about $319 million worth of projects on hold until the economy improves. “We also have a few very large projects that may be coming to the county,” Higgins added. “We are talking about projects that could employ more than 500 employees each and provide a capital investment of $100,000 each.” To prepare for the possible new industries, the Link is buying much of the land around the GTRA. “It’s no secret to anyone. Our goal is to control the land to the east and west of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport,” said Higgins. “We want to be ready for the next announcement that a major industry has chosen Lowndes County.” ■

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

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American Eurocopter | 1782 Airport Road | Columbus, Mississippi 39701 | 662.327.6226 | www.eurocopterusa.com

PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

13

NEW AND IMPROVED

STORY

LOWNDES COUNTY
BY

KRISTIN MAMRACK PHOTO

BY

JOE RAY ROBERSON

Officials plan to purchase 20 acres on Chubby Lane — at a cost of $220,000 — on which to build a new health department

A retail complex earlier planned for near the intersection of Highway 82 and Highway 45 South, University Park, may be a “dead issue” thanks to the current state of the economy, said Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders, but the county still is in business for other developments this year. “Things are not all bad,” he said. “Things are being done. We’re still working to attract new industry.”

I
14

n addition to a new health department, Lowndes County officials, in 2009, are working to bring residents a sportsplex and a new fire station.
20 acres on Chubby Lane — at a cost of $220,000 — on which to build a new Health Department. “We have gotten the environmental study back on the lot and everything’s OK on it,” District 3 Supervisor John Holliman reported in mid-February. “We have sent the real estate broker for the (property owner) a letter setting up a closing date.” County officials and Health Department employees are meeting with an architect to develop plans for the new facility. “Within two months, we should be breaking ground, if everything goes according to the plan,” Holliman said. “I think it’ll be a real upgrade for

Health department

Officials are proceeding with plans to purchase

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009


Sportsplex

Things are not all bad. Things are being done. We’re still working to attract new industry. Harry Sanders, Lowndes County Board of Supervisors president and District 1 supervisor
“I feel like we’ll have the land purchased by this summer (for a sportsplex),” he continued. “Hopefully, we’ll be using it by the latter part of the summer of 2010.” “I think it’s a major priority, in terms of community development, and we’ve all identified we’re lacking in the area of community development,” District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith said of a sportsplex. “There’s a consensus among all elected officials we need it.”

Lowndes County to get a new health department. I think more people will use it and I think it’ll be a lot different of a set up than the existing (building on Military Road). Anytime you take something out of a neighborhood and put it in a commercial setting, people will use it more. And it is for everybody in Lowndes County.” Sanders estimated the new health department will be in use by the summer of 2010; the project is estimated to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million, not including the cost of the land.

A new fire station

“For me and District 5, the fire station on Old West Point Road is a priority,” District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said of Officials have accepted proposals on property for a new plans to build a new fire station, in an effort to provide better sportsplex, Sanders said. The facility will serve as home to the county’s youth soccer service and lower residents’ insurance rates. “We’ve been at programs, adult softball and football. The sportsplex, which is this now for about two years.” The supervisors recently voted to re-advertise for bids on expected to cost upward of $10 million, will give Columbusthe project after initial bids came in too high; the new station Lowndes Recreation Authority the capacity to host soccer likely will be completed in September or October, Sanders tournaments, a revenue generator many north Mississippi communities have capitalized upon. noted. ■

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PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

15

NEW AND IMPROVED

OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
STORY
BY

TIM PRATT PHOTOS

BY

KELLY TIPPETT

AND

JOE RAY ROBERSON

Starkville Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director Matthew Rye stands in front of the new Starkville Sportsplex building on Lynn Lane.

A
16

s Matthew Rye recently stepped inside the new Starkville Sportsplex building on Lynn Lane, the sound of drills whirring and saws buzzing pierced the air. Construction workers hurried about, installing ceilings and drywall, while other crews worked outside to smooth freshly poured concrete.
Amid all the hustle and bustle, the Starkville Parks and Recreation Department assistant director took a long look around the partially constructed facility and couldn’t help but smile. “These are your tax dollars at work,” Rye said with a laugh. The $5.5 million project, initially scheduled for completion in December, is due to open sometime in mid to late March, Rye said. Not only will the new building provide patrons with indoor courts for basketball, volleyball and racquetball, it will have an indoor walking track, a stage, a concession stand and conference rooms, among other features. “I think once people see the finish, it’s going to be a facility they’re really proud of,” Rye said. “It’s going to be state-of-the-art.”

Sign of the times

For residents of Starkville, the new Sportsplex building is more of what has become a familiar trend. As the city’s population continues to grow, residents have become accustomed to a steady diet of new construction, from houses

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

Developers plan to turn the Cooley Building, which is used by Mississippi State University’s facilities management department for storage and warehouse space, but also houses business offices, shops and management personnel, into a conference center with an adjoining hotel.

and condominiums to hotels and shops. Another place patrons can expect to see significant changes is the Mississippi Horse Park, located just south of the Mississippi State University campus. Park Manager Bricklee Miller said the park’s planned expansion this year is needed because “the events have outgrown our facility.” During the first few months of the year, the park plays host to everything from horse shows and barrel racing to cattle auctions and dog shows. After a summer lull, activities at the park resume in the fall and carry on to the end of the year, generating millions of dollars in revenue for the area. The Starkville Area Arts Council hosted the first “Everything Garden Expo” at the Mississippi Horse Park March 7-8.

Our People. Our Future.

Scott Metzler, a biomedical engineering doctoral student, is researching methods of cardiovascular disease prevention that could save millions of lives. Born with a congenital valve defect, Scott is putting his research where his heart is – literally.

CottonMill Marketplace

Additionally, Starkville residents can expect to see work begin on the

www.ourpeople.msstate.edu
PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH
17

Judy Couey, Starkville School District superintendent, stands amid the construction taking place at Starkville High School.

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

Our teachers will have advantages that other districts may not have, to instruct in buildings that are conducive to learning. We can offer technology, space for special programs in music and the arts and have adequate classroom and work areas for personnel. Judy Couey, Starkville School District superintendent

Energy efficiency not only saves you money, but every kilowatt you don’t use is energy that doesn’t have to be made …and that’s good for everyone.

planned $213 million CottonMill Marketplace project. City officials have said the project, which is expected to break ground this spring, will transform the face of Starkville. The CottonMill site is located just off Highway 12, between Russell and Spring streets, and plans call for retail stores, condominiums, a movie theater and the transformation of the old Cooley building into a conference center and adjoining hotel. The Cooley building is owned by Mississippi State University and currently is used for storage and office space, among other things.

rooms, comfortable waiting spaces and new parking decks.

With continued growth in the Starkville area, construction projects are just a sign of the times. And as the city grows, so do the needs of its school district. So, after approval of a $26.5-million bond issue in 2007, Starkville School District is working on a project of a magnitude that only comes along every 10-20 years, according to SSD Superintendent Judy Couey. But the benefit will be seen for years to come. “Our teachers will have advantages that other districts may not have, to Hospital instruct in buildings that are conResidents of Starkville also could ducive to learning,” Couey said. “We see progress in the plans to renovate can offer technology, space for speOktibbeha County Hospital. County cial programs in music and the arts voters in November narrowly and have adequate classroom and approved a proposal for the county work areas for personnel.” Board of Supervisors to issue up to The high school is getting a new $27.5 million in bonds for improvefront wing and a revamped second ments to the hospital. Groundbreakfloor. Armstrong Middle School is geting isn’t expected to take place for ting a new building so it can add another nine months to a year, hospi- sixth-graders. Henderson Ward tal CEO Arthur “Sonny” Kelly recently Stewart Elementary is getting a new said. wing, losing the blue metal building As part of the renovations, every and seeing Henderson renovated three patient rooms would be cominside as they lose sixth-graders but bined into two, increasing from 100 gain third-graders. Sudduth square feet to 150 square feet; addiElementary School is adding a new tional patient rooms would be located two-story building that contains classin a new tower. The hospital also will rooms and physical education space. renovate its maternity area. Starkville High has an Aug. 7 comAnd there will be a new covered pletion date, Sudduth Dec. 4, and drop-off and pickup area for patients Ward Stewart Henderson is set to be and families, new elevators and restfinished Dec. 20. ■

Schools’ facelift

To learn more about 4-County’s energy efficiency programs and more, call 662-245-0728 or visit www.4county.org.

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PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

NEW AND IMPROVED
STORY
BY

WADE H. LEONARD PHOTO

CLAY COUNTY
BY

LUISA PORTER

A window of T&M Cafe on Main Street in West Point reflects a portion of downtown buildings in the recovering community.

W
20

EST POINT — Once, the scent of the Sara Lee hog-processing facility was a sweet smell to the 11,000 or so citizens of the small Mississippi city of West Point. Now, for many, a cloud of disappointment replaces the smoke from the factory which employed more than 1,200 people before it shut down in 2007.
that won’t ever happen again, then that’s fine,” said Mayor Scott Ross. “We would have done anything to keep that plant, but now we’ve got to make things happen and be proactive in doing that.” Ellis Steel announced late in 2008 its intention to add to its facility. Fabricator Supply, a subsidiary of the company, is

However, the Clay County seat’s outlook isn’t all doom and gloom. Clay’s unemployment rate, which currently stands at 12.4 percent, is only a little higher than it was in 2005 and it stood at 11.7 percent, when the Sara Lee plant was running at full capacity. And even if it is slow going, the city and county are making some progress toward recovery and growth. “If people want to dwell on the past and deal with things

Steel expansion

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

at work building a multimillion dollar facility. The new plant will mean at least 30 new jobs for the city. Navistar, formerly Griffin, is one of the city’s top employers. About 750 people work for the company, which builds the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle — or MRAPs — for the military. During a recent trip taken by several West Point and Clay County leaders to Washington, D.C., the delegation learned a new vehicle, the MRAP-ATV — a smaller and lighter version of the standard MRAP — was being discussed. If the military ordered construction of the vehicles it is likely they would be built in West Point. Jeff Rowell, president of the West Point/Clay County Community Growth Alliance, said the key to ensuring economic prosperity in the city and county is to begin revolutionary thinking while continuing to support local businesses. “We have to think outside the box and think what our potentials are

are trying to work there that this is the case. “If you look at the history of our unemployment over the years, it’s been traditionally higher than people would have liked,” said Ross. “It pretty much Putting education first always stays in that range. Part of it is And education seems to be somethe fact West Point had a heavily manthing Clay County is taking seriously. ufacturing-reliant economy. The county led the way in areas served “We had, for the most part, jobs that by East Mississippi Community College did not require either high skill levels by becoming the first to offer tuition or high education levels, and lots of guarantees to students who graduate people made good livings doing that. from Clay County schools. But as the economy has evolved we Under the tuition guarantee, any have not probably kept our workforce student who earns a diploma in Clay as prepared as you would want in this County can attend EMCC for two time period. years, tuition-free. “The fact we have recognized that The program is funded via a and there is significant effort made by $71,500 donation from the Clay East Mississippi Community College (to County Board of Supervisors, a offer workforce training and other edu$20,000 grant from the Create cational opportunities), means we have Foundation and private donations. our eye on the future recognizing some In the end, said Rowell, the possibil- jobs today require a different skill level ity for success in West Point is readily than the day you could drop out of apparent. The trick, he points out, is high school and get a decent job convincing the people who live and around here.” ■ beyond smokestacks,” he said. “We’re obviously supportive of industrial growth, at the same time, we’ll focus on all aspects of economic growth and development.”

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Golden Triangle arts organizations continue to nourish the soul with everexpanding offerings STORY BY JAN SWOOPE PHOTOS BY KELLY TIPPETT AND LUISA PORTER
ibrant, fulfilling and energized are just a few of the intangible but critical qualities the visual and performing arts infuse into our communities.
The arts educate, entertain and enlighten us. They are, as has often been said, the soul food of life. To take the pulse of area arts, a good place to begin is with arts councils. With the revived West Point-Clay County Arts Council, all three points of the Golden Triangle have active, nonprofit organizations eager to take quality of life to the next level. “The Columbus Arts Council is a gateway for our community to the arts,” said Executive Director Rachel Smith. “It’s our mission to ensure we provide a variety of programming and classes that appeals to all ages.” CAC innovations this year have included a Holiday Interior and Floral Designer Showcase, the “Chip Off the Old Block” community art project and “Dining for Art,” a unique fundraiser featuring individual theme parties with a combined grand finale April 18 at the Rosenzweig Arts Center. Multiple exhibits showcase area artisans while a year-round sales gallery provides artists and musicians an outlet to market their work. The popular “Starving Artists” exhibit

A rts
V
Columbus Arts Council Executive Director Rachel Smith Opposite: Jayson Triplett and 4-year-old Lucas Vaughn Lammers put finishing touches on artwork at the Cre8tive Warehouse in Starkville.

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each fall continues to encompass an eclectic mix of one-of-a-kind finds, and summer camps and classes ranging from drama to pottery offer self-expression for children and adults.

“Be it through our gallery series, classical programs such as ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet and the Mississippi Symphony, our long-running Young Peoples Artist Series for area school-

children or some of the fantastic musicians and poets who grace our Omnova Theater stage, the CAC gives everyone the chance to be passionate about an art form, or to be a fan of them all.”

Keeping it new

The youngest participants in The Columbus Arts Council’s “Chip off the Old Block” community art project are 3-year-old Ethan Box and 8-year-old Eli Box. Behind them sits their proud mother Jenny Box, of Columbus. 26

The Starkville Area Arts Council is busy, as well. In addition to the Cotton District Arts Festival April 18 and the Art in the Garden tour May 16, the organization presented the first-ever “Everything Garden Expo” at the Mississippi Horse Park March 7-8. “The Starkville Area Arts Council continues to focus on our mission of promoting the essential value of the arts for the cultural, educational, social and economic vitality of the Starkville area,” said SAAC President Brian Jones. The West Point-Clay County Arts Council also launched initiatives this past fall it hopes to continue. The Authors and Artists showcase downtown and the “Thursday Tempo” music series in Sally Kate Winters Park met with great success. The group also gives arts and education mini-grants, as do the Columbus and Starkville councils.

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

Columbus Crossroads students completed a 30-foot-by-9-foot mural at Cook Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School. The artwork, designed by Cristen Craven Barnard, of Senatobia, features famous Mississippians from the worlds of literature, art, music and media, as well as a state map showing each pictured personality’s hometown. Opposite: Cre8tive Warehouse co-founders Heath Kleinke, left, of Starkville, and Carey Estes, of Tupelo, sit inside the non-profit artists’ collective they worked to establish at 100 Washington St.

award-winning Starkville Community Symphony Orchestra and Chorus offer Theatre, to name a few. an array of classical, jazz, pop and Who would we be without our sacred music, as well as faculty recitals, artists, composers, poets, musicians throughout the year. and thespians? Thanks to those committed to keeping the arts thriving, the Get creative Golden Triangle won’t have to face An exciting development in that dilemma any time soon. ■ Starkville has been the Cre8tive Warehouse, a non-profit artists’ collective at 100 Washington St., where 14 visual artists currently thrive off of Ralph Null, of Columbus, submitted this each other’s energy. Since opening in wood block sculpture for the “Chip off the Old Block” project. April, the warehouse has become active in the community, offering exhibits, sales, workshops and art Collegiate resources talks, according to co-founder Heath Mississippi University for Women Kleinke. and Mississippi State University are In Columbus, new generations of great sources of arts enrichment, much painters, sculptors and dancers are of it at little or no cost. getting their start at the Joe Cook The opening of the renovated MUW Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School. Art and Design Building in January herOne highlight of the first year as a alds a new era for art students and facmagnet school was a partnership with ulty. Frequent exhibits are free to the the Columbus Arts Council, in which community, as are concerts by the dozens of children participated in MUW Chorale. “The Nutcracker” ballet with the St. The MUW Department of Music and Petersburg Russian Ballet Co. Theatre is known for quality musical “Our Cook students are bursting and theatrical productions including, with creativity, and the fine arts magmost recently, “The Taffetas” and “The net theme gives them the ability to Glass Menagerie.” showcase that talent,” said Columbus MSU’s Lyceum Series continues to Municipal School District bring top-flight entertainment like the Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips. Count Basie Orchestra and the Hot Many other entities enhance the Club of San Francisco to the Golden area’s arts personality, including the Triangle. The MSU Department of Frank P. Phillips YMCA Drama Team, Music and the Starkville-MSU the Suzuki Strings programs and the
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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

MSU hires new president and football coach S
AND

TORY BY

TIM PRATT

DANNY P. SMITH PHOTOS BY KELLY TIPPETT AND JOE RAY ROBERSON

New Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum surveys the campus from his sixth-floor office in Allen Hall.

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hen Mark Keenum walks onto the Mississippi State University campus every morning, he can’t help but feel like he’s finally come home. After spending years on campus as a student and faculty member, Keenum went off to work in Jackson and Washington, D.C.
But when it came time to pick the 19th president of Mississippi State last fall, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning enthusiastically selected Keenum and brought him back to the sprawling Starkville campus. “It’s wonderful to be back here at my alma mater,” he said with a smile, from his office on the sixth floor of Allen Hall. “This really is a dream come true. This is something I’ve aspired to do. I’ve been very fortunate.” Keenum’s return was a welcome relief to a campus rocked by turmoil on more than one front. Former MSU President Dr. Robert “Doc” Foglesong resigned last spring after a contentious two-year tenure. He was replaced in the interim by Dr. Vance Watson. The search for Foglesong’s long-term replacement didn’t run smoothly, however, as it was discovered Watson, who also was in the running for the full-time job, had authorized school employees to perform landscaping services for then-IHL Commissioner Tom Meredith. After the scandal was exposed, Watson resigned as interim president and removed himself from the running. Meredith also resigned from his job at the IHL. Keenum has since asked university staff to familiarize themselves with the “ethical rules” of the university, and to know what they can and cannot do. He also has hired an expert to do a “top-to-bottom” evaluation of the MSU adminis-

W

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It’s wonderful to be back here at my alma mater. This really is a dream come true. This is something I’ve aspired to do. I’ve been very fortunate. Mark Keenum, 19th president of Mississippi State University
“I’ve been spending a lot of time down in Jackson trying to help our leaders understand the importance of higher education,” Keenum said. “We’re obviously concerned about potential budget shortfalls, potential cuts in the operating moneys we receive from the state. So it’s a lot of planning, a lot of reviewing with our vice presidents and other administrative officials here to put together plans for how we can weather the shortfalls in state funds.” Keenum also has been to Washington, D.C., in the hope of getting federal dollars. Additionally, he has met with “major supporters” of the university, including alumni and other contributors. Keenum has been an off-and-on fixture at MSU since he first arrived as a student decades ago. He completed his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultur-

tration, he said. Keenum, 48, said he plans to bring some stability to the president’s office. “I think any institution wants to know that the leadership is committed to their institution, and I clearly have 100 percent commitment to this institution,” he said. “This is, as I’ve mentioned before, my dream. I love this place. I love the people here. I love Mississippi. I was born and raised here. This is my home, so I have no intention to aspire to any other place or any other institution. This is a place I’d like to be for the long term.”

Budget shortfall

The biggest challenge facing MSU right now is the 5percent budget decrease recently approved by Gov. Haley Barbour for all IHL institutions.

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A statue of Bully sits in Keenum’s office. Left: Mississippi State University Athletic Director Greg Byrne, right, puts a traditional maroon and white jacket on Dan Mullen to welcome him to the Bulldog family as MSU’s head football coach in December 2008.

al economics at MSU. And has worked in the university’s Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at MSU, Department of Agricultural Economics as an assistant professor and economist and was an agriculture adviser to Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and later was Cochran’s chief of staff. He also served as undersecretary for the USDA’s Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services office, where he worked until becoming the university’s 19th president.

New head coach

One of the first things Mark Keenum had to do once being appointed president of MSU was to help Athletic Director Greg Byrne look for a new head football coach following the resignation of Sylvester Croom on Nov. 29, 2008. After about a two-week search, Keenum, Byrne and interim president Roy Ruby found their man, and his name was Dan. Dan Mullen, regarded as one of the top young offensive minds in college football, was hired as the 32nd

head coach in MSU history on Dec. 11, 2008. “This is an exciting day for Mississippi State University, our athletic department, and most importantly, our football program,” Byrne said announcing the hiring of Mullen. “It is a new day for our football program.” Mullen, 36, joins the Bulldogs after serving for four years as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Urban Meyer at the University of Florida. During his time with the Gators, Mullen directed an offense to consecutive top finishes among Southeastern Conference schools. Florida ranked first in the SEC in scoring offense and total offense in 2008, averaging 45.2 points and 442.4 yards per game. Under Mullen in 2007, the Gators led the league with an average of 42.5 points and 457.2 yards per game. Mullen has already let it be known that he would like to do the same things at Mississippi State. “One thing you will see from our football team is a spread offense,” Mullen said. “We will take the great athletes in the state of Mississippi, get

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them the ball in space and give them the right opportunities to do some things with the football in the open field.” While at Florida Mullen coached six offensive players to the All-SEC team. In addition to Tim Tebow, who was the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, Mullen coached Percy Harvin, Cornelius Ingram, Brandon James, Jim Tartt and Drew Miller. Prior to his tenure with the Gators, Mullen also worked with Meyer at Utah (2003-04), Bowling Green (200102) and Notre Dame (1999-2000). While at Utah, Mullen helped quarterback Alex Smith become the top pick in the 2005 National Football League draft. ■

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Columbus schools are building a new middle school and implementing innovative new magnet programs, but will the changes bring in more students? S WADE H. LEONARD P KELLY TIPPETT TANNER IMES
TORY BY HOTOS BY AND

A NEW

new middle school and the introduction of the magnet school concept have many wondering if the Columbus Municipal School District is in the dawn of a new era.
In January 2008 the city of Columbus, with an astounding 79 percent vote, passed a $22 million bond issue to fund the construction of a new middle school just north of the city limits on Highway 45 North. And the new school isn’t the only project exciting CMSD educators. At the beginning of the 2008-09 school year, all five CMSD elementary schools became magnet schools, each focusing on one of five themes — fine arts, aerospace and science, medical sciences and wellness, international

A

From left, Tyler Ellis, Kelsi Bowen, Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips, Laurel Yarborough, Leonardo Dismukes and Jordan Montoya stand at the proposed site for the new CMSD middle school expected to be operational in the fall of 2010. These current fourth-graders could be part of the first sixth-grade class at the new school, if construction goes according to plan. 36

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

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From left, looking at a touch screen are Kiara Jones, whose mother is Sayonara Jones; Alyssa Rosses, the daughter of Sherry Harper; and Makayela Bouldes, the daughter of Richelette Jones and Cornelius Bouldes, in Jessica Smith’s fourth-grade class at Stokes-Beard Elementary Technology and Communication Magnet School.

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

I think any enrollment increase based on the programs we have initiated in the city schools is like icing on the cake. Dr. Del Phillips, CMSD superintendent

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studies or technology and communication. These programs, and the vigor by which CMSD Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips has implemented them, beg the question: Will the new middle school and the magnet concept translate into higher enrollment numbers for CMSD? Despite the scope of the projects the district has implemented, Phillips maintains increased enrollment is not necessarily a CMSD goal. “I think any enrollment increase based on the programs we have initiated in the city schools is like icing on the cake,” he said. “Our intent as a district is to provide a world-class educational opportunity to all our students. To do that you have to seek out and implement world-class programs that extend our usual Mississippi curriculum and standards. “We have seen a stabilization in our enrollment this year, which is the first time for our district in many years. At the end of January 2008, we had 4,456 students enrolled. At the end of January 2009, we have 4,490 students enrolled. That’s a tremendous sign that our programs and their merit with students, parents and teachers is beginning to reach the broader community.” Just west of the intersection of highways 45 North and 373, the new middle school will be very close to Columbus Air Force Base but a bit of a drive from most of the children it will serve. Ultimately, said Phillips, the site

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Franklin Elementary Medical Sciences and Wellness Magnet School third-grader Bradlin Williams looks up from his work in Amy Shepherd’s classroom during a school board visit. Bradlin is the son of Amy Williams.

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location was chosen because it was the best available property for the money. Eleven sites were proposed for the new middle school; some were on the flood plain, while others did not meet the land specifications.

April. The school is expected to be up and running by the fall semester of 2010.

The front of the new middle school will house the shared areas of the building, which include the cafeteria, gymnasium, music facilities, theater Site selection CMSD advertised for a minimum of and dance space and administrative 17 acres, to accommodate the middle offices. The rest of the school will be split into three non-connecting wings, school. with each wing housing a different State law mandates require five grade. According to Phillips, the phiacres for any K-8 school, with an losophy of this design choice is to additional acre per every 100 chilkeep interaction between older and dren. Columbus schools serve about younger students to a minimum as 1,000 middle schoolers. With 49.2 acres — and a $757,000 well as to create an atmosphere in which it is easier to monitor student price tag, or $15,900 an acre — the movement throughout the school day. selected site offers the needed space Currently, city students in kinderand the opportunity to expand and garten through grade four attend a potentially put an elementary school CMSD elementary school; students in on the land. “There are a lot of good places we the fifth and sixth grades attend Hunt could have put it,” Phillips said. “And Intermediate School; students in the seventh and eighth grades attend Lee I asked several other landowners about it, and the answers were either, Middle School, and ninth- through 12th-graders go to Columbus High ‘No,’ or, ‘Yeah, you can have it for School. The new middle school will $20 million.’” shift the organization to the more traConstruction bids will be opened ditional model in which kindergartApril 2, and Phillips expects a conners through fifth-graders will attend tract to be awarded near the end of

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the district’s elementary schools and sixth- through eighth-graders will attend the middle school, which as yet has no name. The facility will be more than just an attractive new building; it will incorporate the magnet school concept now in place in the earlier grades. The magnet concept has taken hold of the imaginations of CMSD teachers, students, parents and administrators. Phillips is excited about the concept taking root in the middle school. “The magnet school concept has been wildly popular over the last 30 years for two very simple but very important reasons,” said Phillips. “First, students absolutely love going to school in a magnet environment. They are able to learn in a way that’s fun to them and keeps them active in the process. Second, research indicates that academic achievement in every subject increases in a magnet concept school.” ■

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PRESIDENTIAL

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n a Monday morning in March 2008, a standing-room-only crowd jammed Mississippi University for Women’s Pohl/Stark Recreation Complex to hear then-Sen. Barack Obama, then a candidate for the nation’s highest office, speak at a town-hall style meeting.
“I got a call from Wil Colom, who knew I was a big Obama supporter, and he asked me if I would like to do it,” recalled Lehner, who initially was just excited to have tickets to the event. “I knew she was a supporter, and I thought she was a very enthusiastic person, who was really going to fire it across there,” said Colom, a Columbus attorney, who worked on Obama’s national finance committee. The Obama campaign, Colom noted, wanted a parent or community member involved in local education. Lehner — who helped design a reading room in the Franklin Academy library, volunteered with the parent-led initiative “Art Encounters” at Franklin to offer students art lessons after budgetary cuts eliminated the art program, and helped campaign to get a $22 million bond issue passed for a new middle school — fit the bill. “I took a big breath and Barack Obama said ‘You’re gonna do great, Jennifer, but don’t trip.’” She didn’t trip. But she was relieved when it was over,

So many residents and visitors — as diverse in age and color as the county itself — piled into the building, security personnel had to restrict access. As Obama, in his now-famous conversational speaking style, challenged his audience with the promise of change and a better tomorrow, large groups of those not allowed inside the facility convened on the lawn, hoping for a glimpse of the candidate as he left the building. “It was electrifying,” exclaimed Mike Larry, 40, of Columbus. “Just with him being here, I was overwhelmed,” said 24year-old Jermain McGee, of Columbus. “He was just breathtaking,” said Johnice Dickerson, 36, of Columbus. Jennifer Lehner’s breath was taken away for a different reason. The mother of two introduced Obama to the packed gym. “It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” she said.

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comparing it to jumping out of a plane. “I was exhilarated that I made it, and I was glad to be alive. ... I was on Cloud 9.”

Coming to Columbus

Community members have been quick to credit Colom for the Obama

visit, but Colom doesn’t take all the credit. “All I can say is, I asked him to come. I am not saying that he came because I asked him. Maybe other people made a request, as well,” he said, also offering other reasons Columbus was an optimal choice. “I think that demographically

PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

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Chip Somodevilla/AP

Democratic presidential candidate, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., address a question during the Sept. 26, 2008, presidential debate at the University of Mississippi. Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS is at center.

Columbus came up as the obvious site for two reasons,” said Colom. “One, it was the second-largest zip code area that he raised the most money in Mississippi. Two, there were very active groups of participants here — both at The W and State and in the community. “And I think having me here, they had some infrastructure,” he continued. “In the first floor of my building (Court Square Towers), we had a pretty elaborate Obama headquarters that could help structure the event.”

Colom said he was surprised Obama came to Columbus since he “obviously” was going to win Mississippi and had just come off a hard campaign in Texas and Ohio. In Columbus, Obama make one thing clear, an item that led that evening’s newscasts: He was not running for vice president. “It was one of the speeches he only gave once in the whole campaign,” Colom noted. And once was enough, as the crowd was electrified by the appearance and

media outlets around the country quoted the statement ringing in the nation’s ears: “I’m not running for vice president; I’m running for president of the United States of America.”

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On Sept. 26, 2008, the eyes of the nation turned again to North Mississippi, as Sen. John McCain and Obama debated on The University of Mississippi campus. Ole Miss, under the leadership of Chancellor Robert Khayat, lobbied hard and spent more than $5 million preparing for an event school officials hoped would showcase to the world a very different place from the hotbed of racial turmoil the school had been when James Meredith broke the color line there in the fall of 1962. Khayat’s gamble paid off. Journalists from all over the world descended on Oxford to file stories in the days leading up to the event. Reports and discussion panels contrasted favorably the present day campus with the Ole Miss of the ’60s. The debate almost didn’t occur, though. McCain suspended his campaign to return to Washington because of the economic crisis. Back in Washington, the Republican candidate had a change of heart, returned to Oxford and the debate went off without a hitch. In his pre-debate welcome at the Gertrude Ford Center, Khayat said, “This is really a crowning moment in the history of Mississippi and the history of Ole Miss. We have worked very hard to get into this position.” ■

Return to the Magnolia State

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

Intersection of Hwy. 82 & Military Road

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IMAGES

LAYERED

Downtown landmarks as reflected in today’s store windows
PHOTO ESSAY BY TANNER IMES

Columbus City Hall appears in the windows of The Commercial Dispatch. Top: Fifth Street is mirrored in the windows of Holly Hocks. Page 49: BancorpSouth shares space with mannequins in the window of A Southern Wedding. Page 50: The Princess Theater is reflected in the window of Winphrey Formals. Page 51: The Lowndes County Courthouse is shown in GHS Graphics’ storefront window.

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Photo illustration by Jackie Taylor

MU

W
Amid unrest and a name change, Mississippi University for Women searches for identity STORY BY JOHN MOTT COFFEY
iving Mississippi University for Women a new name is a certainty for President Claudia Limbert, but it’ll be another year of debate and decision-making before the final judgment is made.
moniker for the school in 2010. However, some MUW alums will continue a fight for the W to stand for Women. They take pride in the university’s 125-year-old focus on educating females. “Who we are today is the nation’s very first public institution of higher learning for women

ho?

G

Students don’t want to attend a college perceived to be just for women, she said. “The evidence — and common sense — demonstrates that our current name is an obstacle to enrollment growth,” said Limbert, who plans to ask the state Legislature to adopt a new

PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH 53

Eudora Welty

Sallie Reneau

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

with a mission — which is legislatively mandated and continues to be — ‘to provide educational and leadership opportunities for women,’” said MUW alumna Cheryl Cooper. Cooper is public relations chairman of the MUW alumnae group wanting to keep the school’s name as is. Limbert is planning to select a new school name for the state college board’s endorsement to be forwarded to the state Legislature next year. Using focus groups and Web site feedback on the appeal of three committee-picked names made in January, one will be selected by MUW leaders representing faculty, staff, students, alums and other university supporters appointed by Limbert. “I will then recommend a name on behalf of the university to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning for its approval. The final decision on the new name rests with the Mississippi Legislature,” Limbert said. The three suggested names: Reneau University, Welty-Reneau University and Waverley University. Sallie Reneau began the campaign that eventually convinced the state Legislature to establish the university in 1884 as the first public college for women in America. Eudora Welty is a Pulitzer Prizewinning author who attended the university from 1925 to 1927. Waverley comes from a novel by Sir Walter Scott that extolls the virtues of innovation, vision and creativity. The public responses to the suggested names were to be presented to the MUW leaders in March. While Limbert hasn’t expressed preference for what the university’s new title should be, she’s convinced a dramatic rebranding is needed. “Our current name is no longer right, no longer appropriate and no longer represents who we are today as a public university with a public mission,” she said. “In short, it is clear that a change

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Our current name is no longer right, no longer appropriate and no longer represents who we are today as a public university with a public mission. Dr. Claudia Limbert, Mississippi University for Women president
there any guarantee that this name change will become a priority for (the) college board or Legislature, which are facing financial constraints and many competing priorities.” The Limbert-appointed committee in January picked the three names after seeking ideas from the public since September. A Web site and mailing address were opened to allow the public to submit suggestions. More than 1,000 submissions were made. After the names were narrowed down to three, a public relations firm — The Cirlot Agency — headed by MUW alum Liza Looser began polling focus groups of high school seniors throughout the state and receiving feedback from an online survey anyone could take. The university has had three names. It was founded as the Industrial Institute and College in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women. II&C became Mississippi State College for Women in 1920 and Mississippi University for Women in 1974. MUW began enrolling men in 1982. It currently enrolls about 2,300 students, of which about 20 percent are males. ■

is needed to better reflect who we are today and to help us compete for students who assume, based solely on our name, we are an institution only for women.” Alums wanting to keep MUW as is will try to convince the college board and Legislature to reject Limbert’s attempt to change the name. A new name is not “a done deal. It is in fact a long way from becoming a reality,” Cooper said. “The college board or the Legislature may ask for hard data to support a name change and to prove it is necessary. ... At no juncture is

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Mark Castleberry stands in front of McAlister’s Deli, located in the Wind Chase Shopping Center. Below: An expanded view of the shopping center

CASTLE
THE
TORY BY HOTOS BY

TOUCH
AND

Local developer’s business thrives during economic downturn S TIM PRATT P JOE RAY ROBERSON KELLY TIPPETT
ark Castleberry is equal parts capitalist, magician and a boy in a sand box. To that, you might add visionary.

As the owner of Castle Properties, based in downtown Columbus, 49-year-old Castleberry constantly watches the real estate market looking for a property with Cinderella potential — an out-of-date shopping center he can transform into a thing of beauty — or, as he has most recently, a vacant lot in need of a new motel or restaurant. As developers around the nation have seen business slow over the past year, Castleberry has continued to bring commercial real estate projects to the Golden Triangle. “We’ve got a lot going on,” he said during an interview in his meticulously restored new offices on Main Street. “It is more
58

M

difficult to make a deal work right now, but by no means is it impossible. We’re making deals work. We’re starting to see a thawing in the market. We’re starting to see a little bit more talking. “We’re in a good place in that large projects right now are

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

just about not happening, so we’re focusing on the smaller projects,” Castleberry continued. “There’s not a lot of property in the pipeline for larger projects, but for those of us with smaller, existing properties, we can still be active.” Although Castleberry says there is no secret to becoming a successful developer, he has crafted his business strategy to appeal to companies on the local and national level. One of his strategies is to bring in businesses he says “the public needs” and place those businesses in locations where they complement each other. “We try real carefully to get a good mix of tenants,” he said. “We don’t just put anybody next to anybody. We try to, and we’re not always successful, to set it up so they share customers and one doesn’t detract from the other. Hopefully, if anything, they’re neutral to each other and one wouldn’t detract from each other.” Castleberry, who splits his time between Columbus and Jackson, Tenn., has been in the real estate business fulltime since 1992. He owns properties in

Columbus, West Point, Starkville, Tupelo, New Albany, Grenada and Batesville. In Columbus, Castleberry is developing a roughly 13-acre site just east of where Highway 82 crosses over 18th Avenue North. The land is the future home of a 103-room Courtyard by Marriott, an 87-room Fairfield Inn and Suites and four restaurant pads, although he’s unsure what restaurants will be located there. Castleberry is partnering with the Peachtree Hotel Group of Atlanta on the hotel projects. Castle Properties is in the process of demolishing two buildings on Third Street South between Main and College streets so he can build a new three-story, 24,000-square-foot mixed-use building. The structure will house offices, condominiums and serve as the new location of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additionally, he owns and is working on the redevelopment of the Wind Chase Shopping Center and Wind Chase Shops in a structure that once housed an aging Wal-Mart. He’s demolished the old Home and Garden Market across

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Highway 45 North from Wal-Mart to make way for a Zaxby’s. The groundbreaking is expected in May. “I just enjoy building things,” he said. “It’s kind of exciting to tear down old, nasty stuff, too. It’s kind of a ‘boys and their toys’ kind of thing. I guess I’m just a typical boy in that I like heavy equipment. I’ve always been in the building and manufacturing kind of thing, and I just like that kind of stuff.” Castleberry also has renovated the building that houses his office on Main Street, as well as a building for the nextdoor neighbor, the Brunini Law Firm. Both are impressive historical restorations. A number of shopping centers along Highway 45 North also are owned and were developed by Castle Properties, including The Crossing, which houses Susan’s Hallmark and Toshiba, and the property housing Cellular South and Quiznos Sub Shop. In Starkville, Castleberry is building a new Verizon Wireless store at the site of the old Coca-Cola bottling plant, on Highway 12, near the intersection with Louisville Street. Next to the Verizon building will be a 5,000-square-foot retail space. Castleberry said he is “pretty close” to securing retailers for the location. Castleberry also plans to bring a fullservice restaurant to the location, though he’s not yet sure what business will occupy the space. Additionally, plans are in the works to build a Fairfield Inn and Suites at the site. He is partnering with the Peachtree group on those hotels, as well. Castleberry also owns a roughly 12acre site near the Highway 25 bypass but doesn’t have plans to develop it anytime soon. And he owns a 9,000-square-foot building at the corner of North Jackson Street and Garrard Road, which is now empty and available for sale or lease. Still, Castle Properties hasn’t been immune from the nation’s economic downturn. “These days, financing is one of the biggest challenges,” he said. “We chose to grow a great deal in a time when financing is the most difficult, so that’s a difficult combination. But we’re doing all right.” ■

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For fifty years you trusted us to walk in your footsteps.
And we were there, every step of the way. With that foundation of trust, we have shared your dreams and helped bring them to reality, through the good times and bad. For that we thank you. We look forward to all the possibilities of the next fifty years.

For more information, call (662) 434-6052 or visit us at www.trianglefcu.com

storm
After the
Caledonia continues to rebuild after being ravaged by 2008 tornado S NEAL WAGNER P KELLY TIPPETT JOE RAY ROBERSON
TORY BY HOTOS BY AND

D
62

ozens of times throughout the year, we turn on our televisions to see footage of houses, property and lives wrecked by nature’s fury.
Whether it’s flooding, tornadoes or hurricanes, every scene typically looks horrifically similar — splintered shards of wood strewn hundreds of feet, downed power lines and

vehicles flipped upside down. Fortunately for many, the scenes of destruction never come closer than the image on a TV screen. For hundreds of Caledonia students and residents, Jan. 10, 2008, those images became a reality. “It was definitely a shock the first time I saw it,” said Shane Meredith, minister of the Caledonia Church of Christ. “I am pretty sure I was actually in a state of shock for a few days after the tornado hit.” As the sun set on the northern Lowndes County commu-

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

nity the evening of Jan. 10, the Church of Christ, like dozens of other structures throughout Caledonia, lay in ruins. The tall, pointed roof had been reduced to a pile of wood, nails and shingles, and the sanctuary was filled with what had been the ceiling and walls of the church. Though the F3 tornado lasted only a few minutes, it was on the ground long enough to destroy several houses, a gym and a vocational-technical building at the Caledonia schools campus and the church. But now, little more than a year later, the town shows few signs of the devastation. “The whole rebuilding process has really been amazing. Everything just kind of fell into place,” said Meredith, as he walked through a new, larger Church of Christ built near its former site on Main Street. “The guy who built it was actually in our congregation, so we saved a lot of money that way. He was really fired up and got the job done incredibly quickly. “He, like all of us here, gave all the credit to God for making the process so smooth,” Meredith added, noting the new church was built in less than six months. “God really did something amazing here. There really were a lot of answered prayers, for sure.” Whether through divine intervention or a speedy insurance company, most of the tornado’s devastation was erased a few months after the storm. “My house was a total loss after the storm, but it was completely rebuilt in August,” said Tawnya Dukes, resident of Renon Lane, an area hit hard by the twister. “I had been liv-

Kellyn Irvin comforts Allison Hanson on the day of the storm, after they came to check on the Clardy residence in Caledonia along with other friends and neighbors. The dog, Rascal, belongs to a neighbor. Opposite: Shane Meredith, minister of Caledonia Church of Christ, stands beside the newly rebuilt church, near its former site on Main Street in Caledonia.

A place for family growth & development
Caledonians are proud of their town and community. Caledonia is a very unique place to live. We are very friendly and always willing to help our neighbors. The Park & Recreation Advisory Board is gearing up now for another busy year at Ola J. Pickett Park. There are lighted fields to accommodate all the nightly sports activities. The town and community are very proud of the Ola J. Pickett park endeavors. Also, the YMCA has been a wonderful asset for our community. Caledonia has its own Court System with Judge Peggy Phillips presiding. There is one (1) full time Marshal and two (2) part-time Deputy Marshals. Constable Willie “Hoot” West also makes himself available when needed. The Caledonia Water/Sewer Department serves about 1,870 customers. The department is always in the process of providing our customers with good service and good water. The water department is under the supervision of Benny Coleman. Pioneer Family Medical has a clinic in downtown Caledonia. Town Hall is open from 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Mayor Bill Lawrence & Town Clerk, Judy Whitcomb will be available during this time for town business. Our office number is (662) 356-4117. We attribute much of our growth in the Caledonia area to our excellent school system. The area continues to grow with new houses and businesses. We are thankful for a great community of wonderful people.

Town of Caledonia

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Woody Robinson carries a microwave as he makes his way around a tree that smashed his mobile home at 2801 Cal-Vernon Road during the 2008 tornado.

callMississippi’s One Call Systemyoudays before you before at least two dig Make sure you call
plan to dig, drill or blast. Mississippi One Call System will contact its member utilities to locate their underground utility pipe, wire and cables. You should contact your mechanical contractor, plumber, electrician or heating contractor for assistance in locating all piping and wiring downstream of your meters. You will avoid hitting any and all underground utilities and prevent any unsafe situation or interruption to the utility services. Any digging near buried gas piping should be performed by hand.

Mississippi One Call can be reached toll free at 1-800-227-6477.

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ing here for about a year when my house was destroyed, so it was definitely hard to lose everything like that. “My children are in college, and I’m a widow. The hardest part of it was losing all of my husband’s things,” Dukes added. “All of that can never be replaced.” Mary Miller, who lives a few doors down from Dukes, also saw heavy damage from the tornado. “Me and my husband actually slept on the floor of our living room for about six months after the storm,” said Miller. “The whole front part of our house and our bedroom was torn up by the storm. It was about $35,000 worth of damage. “It was definitely a very stressful time,” Miller added. “So many houses around here were just completely demolished.” Several miles north, Kenneth and Dorothy Garner’s house also was in the storm’s path. “We just thank God that nobody was killed or even seriously hurt by the storm,” said Dorothy Garner, as she

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

stood on the porch of her house near the corner of Caledonia-Vernon Road and Jackson Street. During the storm, the Garners’ house sustained moderate damage to the roof and porch. “The hardest part was actually not being able to get back to our house right after the storm,” Garner added. “We were actually at my mother’s house when the storm hit, so we wanted to come home after we heard the tornado had hit here. But they had to close the roads off because of all the damage, so we weren’t able to get here until the next day.” Contractors with JBHM Architects predict a middle school gym and a new complex at Caledonia schools to house band, art and vo-tech classes will be completed before the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year. “It was just amazing to see how the town pulled together to rebuild during the months after the storm,” said Meredith. “That was definitely a chaotic day, and it makes it so much easier when people work together and support each other.” ■

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PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

65

Amber Murphree, Main Street Columbus manager

DISTINCTIVE
TORY BY HOTOS BY

DESTINATION

With Columbus’s designation as a hot travel spot, locals have much to be proud of S SARAH WILSON P KELLY TIPPETT

A

love affair with the Tombigbee River. A wealth of antebellum architecture. An affinity for embracing a rich and varied heritage.
“I believe we won the Dozen Distinctive Destinations title because of our unique history. So many things here can only be found in Columbus,” said James Tsismanakis, director of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I always talk about Columbus in terms of a puzzle.” “Friendship Cemetery is a piece of the puzzle. So is the history of

The list of reasons Columbus is a rare jewel goes on and on. And with no shortage of people telling the story of the Friendly City, the word has gotten out. In 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced to the world what many who live here already know: Columbus is a “Distinctive Destination.”

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Decoration Day, the antebellum homes and the great downtown. Once completed, the puzzle is Columbus. You have to have all the pieces of the puzzle to make a town like this, a very eclectic town.” Used primarily as a hospital town during the Civil War, Columbus has the second highest number of intact antebellum homes in the state. (Natchez has more.) With Mississippi University for Women, founded in 1884, Columbus also is home to the state’s first women’s college and one of the area’s oldest black churches — Missionary Union Baptist Church, established in 1833. And the Underground Railroad ran through Columbus on the west bank of the Tombigbee River. “There’s an old African-American song called ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd,’ and it is the verbal road map for going up the Tombigbee to the Tennessee and then to the Ohio as a route of the Underground Railroad,” explained Rufus Ward, a local histori-

an. “So it would have come through here. There would have been way stations along the route, but, of course, nobody knows where they were. Those things were kept very secret.”

A place to call home

The city’s many-faceted history is what makes it a diamond in the rough, according to Tsismanakis. Residents agree. “Laura Harrison has lived in Columbus for little more than three years, yet she says her family had finally found their place in the world. “I’ve never felt a sense of community like I feel here,” Harrison said. “It’s different from other places I’ve lived. It just feels more like home because the people are more accessible and you actually know your neighbors.” The community feeling and historic gems also have led to a resurgence of Columbus’ downtown, according to Main Street Columbus Manager Amber Murphree. “Not only is (the Dozen Distinctive Destinations Award) a prestigious title

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

for visitors, but it creates a sense of community pride for all the people of Columbus and Lowndes County,” said Murphree. “Throughout the last year, downtown and Main Street Columbus has had a lot to celebrate. We have had several new businesses and restaurants open and relocate to the downtown area and had nearly $3 million of public and private investment in downtown alone. “Through continued support, community events and caring citizens the sky is the limit for Columbus, this title is only the beginning,” Murphree added. “The title of Columbus being named as one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2008 is one we can all celebrate.” And more than just the friendly atmosphere, Columbus has distinctive Southern architecture — from the historic MUW to its Victorian and antebellum homes — down-home cuisine, an attractive downtown and its focus on history. One of the most well-photographed pieces of history in Columbus is the weeping angel in Friendship Cemetery, which happens to also be the site of the Confederate Decoration Day, said to be the start of the national holiday Memorial Day. The angel pays tribute to one of Columbus’ heroes, the Rev. Thomas Teasdale. While Teasdale is most known for being a beloved leader of the First Baptist Church, he also may be the only man in history to get both the North and South Civil War presidents to sign a pass. He crossed battle lines and even got himself arrested in order to get both Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln to agree to permit him to sell Southern cotton to the North at a raised price so the Orphans’ Home of the State of Mississippi could keep its doors open and care for the children of deceased soldiers. When Teasdale died, it is said, even the angels cried; hence, the weeping angel was placed at his grave. “I think you could spend hours in the cemetery,” said Tsismanakis. “There’s just so much history there.”

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Lived-in history

And history comes to life, walking through the city’s majestic Victorian and antebellum homes, many of which are open daily for tours. (Call the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau at 662-392-1119 to arrange a home tour.) “One cool thing about Columbus is that our antebellum homes are lived in,” said Tsismankis. “They aren’t just museums, like many cities with antebellum homes do. Columbus residents open up their homes to the public daily.” Historic downtown Columbus also is a place to get in touch with rich history. The Tennessee Williams Welcome Center, the first home of the famous playwright, is the place to start. But, as Tsismanakis will tell you, what sets Columbus apart is something you have to see, feel and experience for yourself. “The thing about Columbus is that you really have to come here and experience it yourself,” he said. “It’s a

Virginia Thomas is the travel counselor at the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center.

unique place that gets into your blood. ... You can’t describe it, it’s just something that occurs, but you like it and it feels like home.” “Home,” Tsismanakis offered, “is

where you hang your childhood. And Mississippi to me is the beauty spot of creation — a dark, wide spacious land that you can breathe in.” ■

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Walter Lanier “Red” Barber and Jackie Robinson are shown at Ebbets Field in 1947. Below: Henry Armstrong, draped in a championship belt, stands in the ring with heavyweight Joe Louis. For a few months in 1938, the boxer reigned as featherweight, lightweight and welterweight world champion, the only fighter in history to simultaneously hold three titles.

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A boxer, a radio broadcaster and a bluesman, all born in Lowndes County within 10 years of each other, received recognition from their hometowns in 2008. STORY BY SARAH WILSON
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PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

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modest marker sits at the intersection of WilkinsWise and Waverly Ferry roads in Columbus, to commemorate Henry Jackson Jr., later known as Henry Armstrong, the only boxer to ever hold three undisputed titles — featherweight, lightweight and welterweight — at the same time.
Barber, born in Columbus in 1908. For 40 years, the “Ol’ Redhead” called Major League Baseball games for the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees. After his broadcast days were over, Barber wrote books and newspaper columns and was a wildly popular commentator on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. In February 2008, Barber’s centenary was celebrated in Columbus with a weekend of festivities. His birthday, Feb. 17, was declared by the Legislature as “Red Barber Day.” On hand for the celebration were Bob Edwards, Barber’s broadcast partner at NPR; former Gov. William Winter, an avid baseball fan; and Curt Smith, author of “Voices of the Game” and other books on sports broadcasting. Winter spoke at the historic marker dedication and Smith and Edwards offered remembrances of Barber at a presentation on the MUW campus. Barber’s commemorative marker is at the intersection of Military Road and Fourth Avenue North near the site of his childhood home.

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So who is the man on the marker? Until 2008, he was one of Columbus’ best-kept secrets. Ranked by The Associated Press as the third best boxer of the 20th century, behind only Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali, Armstrong was born in the Friendly City in 1912. “The most fascinating thing to me is how significant Henry Armstrong is in American sports, and yet practically no one in Columbus knows who he is,” local historian Rufus Ward said, during the planning stages of Columbus’ October 2008 Henry Armstrong Day commemoration celebration. Armstrong was a member of an elite group of fighters who in the 1940s fought and won in several different weight divisions. After his boxing career and a brief stint in the movies, Armstrong became a minister and community leader in Los Angeles, where he founded a youth center and foundation, both of which still are going strong. Another heavyweight in his own right is sportscaster Walter Lanier “Red”

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On hand to witness the unveiling of Big Joe Williams’ Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Crawford are, from left, Crawford Mayor Helen O’Neal, Williams’ only living sibling, Mary May, and his niece, Anita Jackson.

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The “king of the nine-string guitar,” Joseph Lee “Big Joe” Williams, was born near Crawford in 1903. The Delta blues musician and songwriter was known for his raucous behavior and his tricked-out guitar. During his prolific career, Big Joe toured widely in North America and Europe. He spent his last years in Crawford. He died in Macon in 1982. Williams began wandering the country pounding on a nine-string guitar and screaming the blues to fans of at least two generations. His career spanned right up until his death. A Mississippi Blues Trail marker last year was placed in Crawford in his honor. Williams’ influence was felt by a generation of British rock musicians including the band “Ten Years After,” who at Woodstock performed a memorable version of Williams’ “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” A young folkie from Hibbing, Minn., trying to make his mark in the Greenwich Village music scene, sat in on sets with the country bluesman from Crawford. Years later after an aging Williams had returned to Crawford, Blewett Thomas, a friend, drove Williams to Jackson to see his Greenwich Village friend, Bob Dylan, in concert. “We sat backstage for the whole concert,” said Thomas. “They treated Joe like he was a king.” “I’m a big fan of Big Joe’s. He was a big influence on me when I was a young man,” said Big Joe Shelton, who performed at the marker unveiling. “He used the guitar as a percussion instrument, and I use it a lot as a percussion instrument. But Joe, he could whoop down a guitar.” Just outside Lowndes County, Noxubee County natives and blues legends Carey Bell, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater and Willie King carried on the blues tradition. A marker stands in Macon to honor these Black Prairie bluesmen and their soul-belting mark on music history. ■

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THE SCREEN

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BY

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I
76

t appeared as suddenly as mushrooms after a rain storm, and it’s been the talk of the Mississippi State University campus since.
direction of Mississippi State Athletic Director Greg Byrne. Byrne saw the video board as one more way to enhance the game-day atmosphere for the Bulldogs. “We’re very excited about the impact it will have for our fans and for the team,” Byrne

The enormous high-definition, LED video board that was added to Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field near the end of the 2008 football season is the largest in the Southeastern Conference. After initial discussions, the project took off under the

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

Photo courtesy of MSU

said. Even though there were some minor details left to be finished after the season, Brent Frey, MSU’s coordinator of event management and facilities, was satisfied with how things came together. Work will continue into spring to complete the project. The $6 million outdoor screen towers 152 feet wide by 135 feet, 6 inches high and spans the length of the Leo Seal M-Club Building in the south end zone. Burkhalter Rigging, a Columbus-based logistics company, installed the device. “We assembled the major components of our scoreboard at our facility in Columbus and transported them to Scott Field,” said Delynn Burkhalter, president of the company. “That enabled us to start assem78

bly of the steel while the concrete work was still going on, and it lessened the impact on the university campus.” In the weeks before the last couple of football games, crews worked 24-hour days, to prepare the screen for its debut. The video screen itself stands 111 feet wide and 47 feet high and features high-definition effects. So far, the reviews have been thumbs-up. “It’s very impressive, and it shows Mississippi State has moved forward as an elite school,” said Mississippi State offensive guard Derek Sherrod, of Caledonia. “When we get things like that, it helps us because we know we are getting a lot of support from our fans and administration.”

Frey has been getting good feedback. “All positive,” Frey said. “I haven’t heard the first negative comment.”

Other sports

Scoreboard improvements haven’t stopped at football. Upgrades have spread to other sports venues on campus. Improved video screens at baseball and soccer stadiums were planned at the same time as the football project. A new video screen has been put in place at baseball’s Dudy Noble Field and was operational for the season-opener Feb. 20. The construction of the video boards at the football and baseball stadiums were only one phase of the

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

It’s very impressive, and it shows Mississippi State has moved forward as an elite school. When we get things like that, it helps us because we know we are getting a lot of support from our fans and administration. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State offensive guard

The enormous high-definition, LED video board that was added to Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field near the end of the 2008 football season is the largest in the Southeastern Conference. The $6 million outdoor screen towers 152 feet wide by 135 feet, 6 inches high and spans the length of the Leo Seal M-Club Building in the south end zone.

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process, but it also had to be tested. That’s where MSU Coordinator of Electronic Media Bennie Ashford and his staff lent their expertise. “From the beginning, Greg included our office in helping determine things from the production side like what it would take to get images out there,” Ashford said. “We worked with the athletic department and also the companies who were involved with supplying the videos.” With the size and complex nature of the football video board, Ashford said that was obviously the most challenging task. “Football was an unbelievable project, not just the size of the board itself, but the change in technology itself, going from the old

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We’re very excited about the impact it will have for our fans and for the team. Greg Byrne, MSU athletic director
“Right now, it will be used for still shots,” said Frey. “But it can be set up for later down the road for a video and to do replays.” In his unceasing effort to keep MSU’s athletic department moving forward, Byrne believes what has taken place in the area of video technology has been an essential addition. “We feel video boards in today’s marketplace are an important part of the venue, especially those that hold larger crowds,” Byrne said. ■

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analog signals to digital,” Ashford said. “Of course, with the digital signals, it gives us the ability to broadcast high-definition signals.” Ashford said the control room in Dudy-Noble would have to be upgraded before a high definition signal could be broadcast. The video board for the soccer stadium won’t be completed until later this year, but that need is not immediate. Soccer season begins in the fall. And the soccer board won’t immediately be a video board.

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LEAVING

THEIR
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Columbus Air Force Base wives make a difference in the community during their stay S SARAH WILSON P JOE RAY ROBERSON LUISA PORTER
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MARK

Karen Johnwick, executive director of the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society, holds Tiger at the shelter.

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

hey could choose to do just about anything while their spouses are working 12hour days in the cockpits, classrooms and on the flight line. But some base wives are choosing to roll up their sleeves and spend their time in the Friendly City helping wherever they’re needed — to the benefit of animals, the needy, the elderly and the community.
Caitlin Copeland recently moved to Columbus, with her husband, 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Copeland, who is an undergraduate pilot trainee. Her options for recreation, as suggested by other base wives: “Get pregnant or get a puppy.” Caitlin opted for none of the above. Instead she has become a volunteer, running the coffee bar at Hope Community Church in Lowndes County, where husband Jeffrey is lead music minister. She spends other volunteer hours at CAFB charities and picking up odd volunteering jobs like hanging drywall in homes for those in need in nearby Alabama. Another CAFB wife, Karen Johnwick, turned her volunteering into a career. While her husband, Jeff, works as a 14th Operations Group aviation supervisor, she works as the executive director of the ColumbusLowndes Humane Society. Johnwick started out at CLHS about a year and a half ago walking and bathing dogs. Then she got into fundraising for the shelter and other programs. “I never expected to get a job here, but my love has always been animals,” said Johnwick. “I’ve probably had 60 foster dogs over the course of my being here. At one point, I had 12 dogs at the house. There were baby gates everywhere.” Her husband, Johnwick said, grins and bears their furry house guests. “My husband doesn’t care. He wants me to do whatever it takes to make myself happy, and if that means animals running all over the house, he’s OK with it.” Now Johnwick concentrates on organizing fundraisers to better the facilities. “Being a military wife, I always wanted to experience different communities. I’ve gotten attached to Columbus and try to make the most of my time here.”

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Aubrielle Walrond, wife of 1st Lt. Zachary Walrond, volunteers at Immanuel Baptist Church where she coaches cheerleading. She also participates in the Pilgrimage — the annual event that transforms Columbus into a reflection of a time when cotton was king and hoop skirts were standard issue — as a history teller at Twelve Gables. “I decided to volunteer in the community because we were here, and I think that when you live in a place you should give back,” she said. “It’s important to give back and to others.” Lt. Col. Lars Hubert’s wife, Jill Hubert, is a Jill of all trades. The former physical therapist uses her skills at a local adult day care and with RIDES, a horse therapy program for children and adults. In addition to working at RIDES, Hubert works at the Humane Society, volunteers at Caledonia Elementary School, with the United Way and “anything else that may come along.” “I’m not working so I like to help out any way I can,” she said. “This community has a lot to offer and I like to keep my hand in the pot.” Debbie VanderVort, wife of 2nd Lt. John VanderVort, teaches kindergarten at Oak Hill Academy and volunteers at Hope Community Church, caring for the 3- and 4-year-olds dur-

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Jill Hubert, a RIDES volunteer, prepares Cody for another rider on a wet morning.

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

ing services. VanderVort also volunteers at the Humane Society and with Hands Across America, a program that provides Christmas dinner for those who can’t afford it. VanderVort volunteers because she “wanted to get more familiar with Columbus.” She was well-acquainted with volunteering from her college days in a co-ed service fraternity, Kappa Delta Pi. “I’ve just always volunteered,” she said. “And everyone here is so friendly. I feel like if I needed anything, I could ask just about anyone and they would help.” Meagan Coughlin, project coordinator for the Columbus Community Volunteer Center, says CAFB spouses are a valuable asset to the Columbus community. “As a person who is in volunteering every day, it’s great to see the CAFB spouses making the most of their time,” said Coughlin. “They could be doing anything, but they’re using their time here to help the community and we really appreciate the giving of their time and talents to help.” “Our Air Force spouses are the linchpins to the success of the U.S. Air Force and the Columbus AFB BLAZE Team,” said Col. Roger H. Watkins, 14th Flying Training Wing commander. “They not only voluntarily pick up and move every three to four years and care for their families while the military member is deployed, but they also give of their time, talents and treasures to the base and local communities that they live in. In doing so they make things better for everyone, not just their own families or the Air Force family. “They quite literally embody the same core values of integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do that every member of the U.S. Air Force lives by. Without spouse volunteers, many of our helping programs would not be able to function. They are truly invaluable.” ■

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

Dickie Peralto works out at the YMCA on the pectoral fly/rear deltoid machine.

BATTLE
Innovative programs help Lowndes kick the fat rap S SARAH WILSON P KELLY TIPPETT
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tion as No. 1 nationwide in obesity and physical inactivity. But, armed with exercise facilities and special programs, Columbus and Lowndes County have been taking steps to beat the fat rap and teach citizens how to live healthy and active lifestyles. The Columbus YMCA is at the head of the movement, doing everything from partnering For generations, the calorie-laden cooking with Baptist Memorial Hospital–Golden and inactive lifestyles of the South have been the enemy, attested to by Mississippi’s designa- Triangle to organizing health fairs and offering
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free community education programs. In January, the YMCA started an eight-week Lowndes County Shrinkdown program, challenging the more than 500 registrants to shape up and slim down. “It’s letting us know that the people in the community are really interested in getting healthy and learning how to do that,” said Barbara Bigelow, YMCA director of community relations. Participants weighed in each week and were offered free lunch-nlearn sessions every Friday, to learn a different aspect of fitness. But the key, Bigelow has maintained, is not just losing weight but maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a focus on nutrition and exercise.

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In an effort to give children a jump start on a healthy lifestyle, the YMCA also works with Franklin Elementary Medical Sciences and Wellness Magnet School, and the 300-plus kindergarten through fourth-graders get to use Y facilities for free. “It’s very important for our children and parents to learn how to keep their bodies healthy and live a healthy lifestyle,” said Patricia Overstreet, the school’s principal. “We have been meeting and exceeding the 150 hours of mandated exercise that the state department requires, and our partnerships with the YMCA and MUW have been invaluable to the whole process.” Mississippi University for Women’s partnership with Franklin involves using their exercise science equipment to evaluate the elementary students. “We did FitnessGram testing on all the children to get their body mass indexes and body compositions at the beginning of the school year,” said Mark Bean, chair of MUW’s health and kinesiology department. “We’ll bring them back at the end of the year and see if they’ve improved. The earlier the educational process starts, the more

Natalie Pusser, of Columbus, walks on the treadmill at the Frank Phillips YMCA.

likely it will be that they’ll be able to create a positive lifestyle change for themselves.”

A little too convenient

Some people within the field blame technology for the high obesity rate, but one woman has hope that things are starting to turn around. “Things are really coming up where we can change things,” said Melissa Parsons, YMCA assistant program director. “Right now it is looking like parents will outlive their children because of the high childhood obesity rates. It’s terrible. Everything is so easy and convenient now. We have to go out of our way to exercise. We don’t wash our own clothes by hand or move in covered wagons anymore. “And it seems like exercise is one of the first things that people push out of their lives when they’re pushed for time. It shouldn’t be that way.” To set up young people who aren’t in public school with the right opportunities to be healthy, the Y serves the Lowndes County homeschooled population with a physical

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Dave Olson, of Columbus, works on his biceps in the downtown YMCA.

education program twice a week. Currently 62 students are enrolled, which makes up 30 percent of the local home-schooled population. “As a Christian-based organization, our mission is to provide programs to promote a healthy spirit, mind and body for both our members and the community,” said YMCA Executive Director Andy Boyd. In addition to working with the home-schooled students, the Y also soon will be working with secondary students in the Lowndes County area who participate in sports programs. The athlete training program will focus on teaching fundamentals of exercise like proper running mechanics, ways to improve balance and coordination and increased reaction time. The Y also has a Silver Sneakers program, offered free for senior citizens and an aquatic program free for people with Parkinson’s disease. “We’re also working on some great fun-fitness programs for the whole community and are hoping to start them soon,” said Bigelow. “They’re going to be energetic and will be bringing things that are normally only available in major metropolises right to Columbus.” YMCA staff have great hope for a

healthier and happier Columbus. “I feel that Columbus could be the epicenter of changing the statistics,” said Parsons. “We could be what starts the process to no longer being the largest state.” ■

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PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

89

Business Office Circulation Classified Advertising Retail Advertising News Sports

328-2424 328-2433 328-2424 328-2427 328-2471 328-1297

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THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

Mortgage rates down. Home selection up. Window of opportunity open.
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4-County Electric Power Association ..............................19 509 Tapas ......................................................................94 Agri Turf ........................................................................74 Alarm One .....................................................................72 American Eurocopter ....................................................13 Annunciation Catholic School ........................................70 At Home With Bassett.....................................................21 Atmos Energy.................................................................15 Bacco ............................................................................72 Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle....................57 Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle...... Back Cover Beans & Cream ..............................................................55 Bella Interiors ...............................................................59 Bennett Ophthalmology Group.......................................69 The Shops at Brickerton ................................................47 The Butcher Shop ..........................................................79 Cable One ......................................................................11 Caledonia Natural Gas....................................................64 Cash & Carry Building Supply ........................................12 Castle Properties............................................................59 Ceco Building Systems ...................................................18 Century 21-Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC ..................23 Chateaux Holly Hills/Rivergate .......................................45 City of Columbus Mayor and City Council .........................4 Coldwell Banker West Realty..........................................91 Columbus Brick Company .............................................41 Columbus Cardiovascular Care ......................................60 Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau ......................1 Columbus Eye Clinic & Laser Surgery Center..................89 Columbus Fire & Rescue................................................54 Columbus Light & Water ................................................40 Columbus Police Department ........................................83 Columbus School District ................................................5 Columbus-Lowndes Development LINK ............................4 Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority.......................40 Community Counseling Services.....................................42 Covenant Presbyterian Church .......................................84 Domtar ..........................................................................43 Dr. Robert Jones ............................................................56 East Mississippi Community College...............................38 Eden MediSpa & Laser Center ........................................89 Falcon Lair ....................................................................83 Family Pharmacy ...........................................................46 Galloway Chandler McKinney Insurance ........................21 Gilmore Memorial Regional Medical Center ..................86 Global Pharmaceutical Corporation ...............................54 Granite Guys ..................................................................33 GTR Airport ...................................................................12 Gunter & Peel Funeral Home .........................................39 Harveys/Sweet Peppers Deli/Jackson Square Grill ............3 Hematology and Oncology Associates at Columbus ....Inside Front Cover

Index of Advertisers

Heritage Academy ..........................................................85 Immanuel Center for Christian Education ......................60 James L. Holzhauer, MD ................................................22 Johnson Carpet Center ...................................................91 Junior Auxiliary of Columbus .........................................45 Leigh Mall........................................................................7 Lighting Plus ..................................................................73 Lighting Unlimited .........................................................39 Lowndes County Board of Supervisors ...........................59 Lowndes Funeral Home & Crematory.............................65 Main Street Columbus....................................................27 Memorial Funeral Home & Crematory ...........................80 Merchant Law Firm........................................................88 Microtek Medical, Inc. ..................................................31 Mid-South Signs.............................................................96 Mississippi Industrial Waste Disposal ............................81 Mississippi State University ...........................................17 Mississippi State University Library ................................33 Mississippi University for Women ..........Inside Back Cover Moving Forward Counseling Center, LLC ........................68 Neel-Schaffer .................................................................10 Nephrology Associates ...................................................74 Newell Paper Company ..................................................42 Newman Oil Company....................................................32 Nichols, Crowell, Gillis, Cooper & Amos, PLLC ...............68 Noxubee County.............................................................34 Oktibbeha County Hospital ............................................35 Ole Country Bakery........................................................95 Party & Paper ..................................................................3 Pediatric Dentistry, Dr. Curtis, DMD, P.A. .......................69 Physicians Weight Loss Center .......................................88 Pinnacle Hunt - The Landings ........................................85 Ratliff Air Service, Inc. ...................................................32 Rehab at Work...............................................................84 Saum Chiropractic Clinic ...............................................55 Smith Landscaping.........................................................73 St. Paul’s Episcopal School ............................................80 State Farm-Denise Good, Rob Naugher ..........................70 Steven C. Wallace, PLLC .................................................56 Swoope Insurance Agency .............................................68 T.E. Lott & Company, PA.................................................22 Tenn-Tom Tourism Association ......................................10 Town of Caledonia .........................................................63 Triangle Federal Credit Union ........................................61 UPS Store.......................................................................84 The Veranda Restaurant .................................................19 Weyerhaeuser ................................................................75 YMCA.............................................................................41

PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH 91

Area gourmands have an ever-expanding number of choices S JAN SWOOPE
TORY BY AND

PHOTOS

BY

KELLY TIPPETT

LUISA PORTER

FROM EUROPE TO THE BAYOU AND

HOME F
rom the plains of Spain to New Orleans’ incomparable mojo, influences from far and near are enhancing the Golden Triangle’s dining options.
European flair
In historic downtown Columbus alone, the addition of 509 Tapas and Huck’s Place and the move of J. Broussard’s from its former location to Fifth Street South, has fueled a surge in downtown dining and opened culinary vistas for eager epicureans.
509 Tapas offers a variety of dishes including, top, 8-ounce seared ahi tuna with spicy parsley salsa topped with lemon; middle, sauteed asparagus wrapped in prosciutto; and bottom, sauté of jumbo lump crab Napoleon with fried eggplant medallions topped with orange beurre blanc. Opposite: Olivia Kemp, of New Hope, studies the menu at Huck’s Place with Jordan Smith, of Columbus. 92

AGAIN

Located at 509 Main St., 509 Tapas opened in September with cosmopolitan élan. Owner Fritz Ehrentraut, born in Munich, Germany, and Chef Michael Noy are proud of the restaurant’s intimate atmosphere and menu brimming with

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

international flavors. Tapas — small dishes of Spain made with seafood, meats, cheeses and vegetables — star, but diners also feast on toro brochetas, calderos and European specialties such as Bavarian roast pork, Italian prosciutto or Hungarian goulash. Dining becomes an interactive affair this spring when “hot rocks” arrive. “Each diner will be able to sear their own meat or tapas at their table on a heated volcanic stone,” Ehrentraut said. “People are happy with our reasonable prices and atmosphere, and we’re very happy with the restaurant and expect to be opening for lunch soon, too.”

A tale of two brothers

The menu Huck’s Place offers varies from tried-and-true Southern classics like turnip greens and black-eyed peas to crawfish, po-boys, steaks, fresh fish, soups, pastas as well as steak, shown above.

Brian and Bubba Huckaby realized a long-held dream when they returned to their roots to open Huck’s Place at 121 Fifth St. S. in December 2008. Brian, 36, former chef at The Duncan Gray Center in Canton and a member of the first graduating class of the Culinary Arts Institute at Mississippi University for Women, and Bubba, 44, who worked with Telecom, make a strong

team. “One of the biggest draws was moving back to Columbus where we grew up and where our parents and family are,” said Bubba. With dishes like Southside chicken, Fifth Street shrimp and catfish on a hot tin roof, the casually comfortable eatery is right at home just two blocks from playwright Tennessee Williams’ first

94

THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH ◆ PROGRESS 2009

Beth Broussard Rogers stands outside J. Broussard’s new location at 210 Fifth St. S. Opposite: David Carter and his wife, Madelon, of Columbus, enjoy dinner at 509 Tapas.

home. The menu varies from tried-and-true Southern classics like turnip greens and black-eyed peas to crawfish, po-boys, steaks, fresh fish, soups and pastas. “The response has been overwhelming in how the community has received us. We’re making new friends and family every day we open the doors, with people coming in to give us a try.”

freshest produce during growing seasons. Her six-course Farmers’ Market meals are popular with area connoisseurs. With other Columbus establishments such as Le Gourmet, Mississippi Coffeehouse and the Princess Theater adding lunch menus in recent months, midday options abound downtown.

Second generation

More unique finds

Stylish Restaurant Tyler opened at

J. Broussard’s has offered fine dining in Columbus since 2001, but a move in October 2008 from Main Street to 210 Fifth St. S. infuses the block with a new energy. In chic, contemporary surroundings, New Orleans native Mary Broussard and her daughter, Chef Beth Broussard Rogers, continue the tradition begun by Mary’s late husband, Chef Joseph Broussard. Beth’s husband, Joe Rogers, serves as sous chef. “We’re really enjoying the new location,” enthused Mary, owner and manager. “With our big windows right on Fifth Street, with a lot of people walking by, we really feel like we’re downtown now.” The menu is packed with New Orleans pizzazz, boasting dishes like escargot bourguignon, catfish amandine and shrimp Elizabeth with parmesan cheese grits. The pecan panee catfish earned J. Broussard’s a nod in Southern Living as one of the best spots in the South for catfish. Chef Beth is an avid supporter of the local Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market, frequently shopping early mornings for the

100 E. Main St. in Starkville with Chef Ty Thames at the helm. It has already been featured in Southern Living magazine for its Southern sophistication and support of local and regional producers. Signature dishes like sweet potato gnocchi and cold-smoked pork chop keep diners returning. And the creamy grits have earned a reputation all their own. Another notable Starkville addition is Brian Michael’s Meat Market and Deli at 831 A Highway 12 West. The market offers the freshest 100 percent Certified Angus Beef, fresh seafood and cheeses from around the world. “We want to take you back in time when you could shake the butcher’s hand and offer the best customer service in town,” owner Brian Michael Lindner said. West Point has also added at least two new casual eateries recently — Chef David’s Barbecue and The Station, both on Highway 45 Alternate. Whatever the condition of the national economy, tasty reasons to dine out continue to expand in the Golden Triangle. For area diners, there is plenty of “Bon Appetit” to go around. ■

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PROGRESS 2009 ◆ THE COMMERCIAL DISPATCH

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