A trip to Washington and another to Jackson were gainful for DeSoto County, as congressional officials assured that infrastructure, flood prevention and workforce development would be top priorities, and Keep Mississippi Beautiful and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves lauded Keep DeSoto Beautiful over a national award.
"You've got to go up there and go after those funds," said DeSoto Supervisor Michael Lee of Hernando, board president, of seeking federal resources. "Our taxpayers deserve their fair share of all the money that flows to Washington."
"I think our visits went well; they were productive," said Lee.
Lee and fellow Supervisors Mark Gardner of Southaven and Lee Caldwell of Nesbit shared regional concerns with U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly of Tupelo and U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and other lawmakers from Mississippi last week as part of DeSoto's annual congressional briefing. Also part of the county contingent were Board Counsel Tony Nowak and County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard.
"Last time we went, we met with the two senators at one session; this time it was separate meetings, one on one," said Lee. "We liked that a lot." He said the senators and their House counterparts "told us they'll take everything we presented into account, and see what happens."
Among major needs on the wish list are funds to complete improvements on flood-prone Holly Springs Road; more and expanded interchanges along Interstate 55, including Starlanding and Church Road; Corps of Engineers stormwater projects to avert flooding; and programs for workforce development.
"Workforce development is a new issue, and an important one," said Caldwell. "We're competing with other regions for business and industry, and we need to better prepare potential employees for the companies, the hubs, the headquarters offices, that are looking into coming here."
DeSoto needs more such training going and growing, "to tell industry that we're preparing a workforce for them," said Caldwell.
Lawmakers were pleased, Caldwell said, that DeSoto along with municipal officials and staff worked together to present "a unified voice" on priorities.
"It's very beneficial, our senators and congressmen told us, because they can present our needs as regional concerns, and they are," said Caldwell. "A major flooding issue, for example, that affects DeSoto County also impacts the region and the state."
In Jackson at last week's statewide Keep Mississippi Beautiful gathering, Keep DeSoto County Beautiful received its second Keep America Beautiful President's Circle Award. Attending the session, where Lt. Gov. Reeves was main speaker, were DeSoto Environmental Services and Parks Director Ray Laughter and Supervisor Bill Russell of Walls along with Hernando Community Development Director Gia Matheny.
The award, decided at the recent KAB National Conference in Washington, recognizes exemplary performance made by certified affiliates of the national nonprofit in creating clean, green and beautiful communities.
In qualifying for the President's Circle Award, Keep DeSoto County Beautiful exceeded KAB standards of merit by conducting an annual Community Appearance Index, calculating the affiliate's cost/benefit ratio, and administering activities in litter prevention, recycling, waste reduction, beautification and community greening in 2016, said Laughter, DeSoto Beautiful Director.
Russell said, "Keep Mississippi Beautiful has been a good partner with the county." He added that a lot of the credit for the award goes to Laughter and county Environmental Specialist Brynn McCarver: "They lead our teams and they do an excellent job."
"They've put a lot of effort into that," said Caldwell of green efforts by Keep DeSoto Beautiful. "Beautification and a cleaner environment build community pride that gives us a better quality of life."
Established in 2015 through a partnership with the Board of Supervisors, the municipalities of Southaven, Olive Branch, Horn Lake, Hernando and Walls, and Keep Mississippi Beautiful, Keep DeSoto County Beautiful aims to protect the integrity of the county's natural landscape.
"Our programs and public outreach seek to prevent litter, encourage recycling, and beautify DeSoto County by providing resources to help solve problems associated with litter prevention and solid waste management," said Laughter.
Henry Bailey is Contributing Writer and Copy Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 662-429-6397.