With a new president for 2017 wielding the gavel, Michael Lee of Hernando, the DeSoto Board of Supervisors plowed into appointments to dozens of county offices and boards and committees, most voluntary. One panel, the five-member Ozone Action Committee, has met its mandate but the board decided not to let it dissolve.
"There's a lot of talent here," said Supervisor Michael Lee, going over the names of those up for county posts or volunteering for appointments to advisory panels. "Most of these people have been serving for awhile, so they know what they're doing."
In a regular January ritual, the supervisors named or certified people to 36 county posts; most are seasoned holders of the positions.
Among those returning are Vanessa Lynchard as county administrator; Tony Nowak as board counsel; Andy Swims as road manager; and Andrea Freeze as comptroller.
Also back are Bobby Storey as Emergency Management Agency director and fire investigator; Chris Olson as EMA deputy director; and Mark Davis, Emergency Medical Services director. Storey also serves as fire services and Homeland Security coordinator.
In other county posts, Tracy Huffman of the Waggoner firm returns as State Aid engineer; Vickie Richmann as EEOC officer; Pat Sylvester as representative for Region IV Mental Health; Pat Sanford as Justice Court Clerk; Roy Andrews as Veterans Services officer; and Pat McLeod as purchasing clerk. Also named were Paige Williams and Mary Ann Pickett as Youth Court prosecutors.
The supervisors also filled positions on more than 20 advisory or planning-related panels. They ranged from the well-known Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission to such lesser-known entities as the Handicap Compliance Grievance Committee and the Coldwater River Watershed Council, to which Robert Abbay IV of Walls was named.
Todd Williams was named to the North Central Mississippi Resource Conservation and Development panel; Billy Baldwin and Damien Weaver return as deputy Medical Examiner investigators; and appointments were made to the Eudora, Lewisburg, Nesbit and Walls Fire Protection Districts, plus the advisory boards to five First Regional Library branches; the Tax Advisory Committee; and Keep DeSoto County Beautiful.
"I spent a lot of time calling folks from my district about their willingness to serve or continue serving, and we have some really good volunteers in our county, so willing to step up," said Supervisor Lee Caldwell of Nesbit.
Supervisor Lee said Hernando's Darla Mirth, for one, of Keep DeSoto Beautiful "contacts me often about opportunities or needs. She really enjoys what she's doing."
County Administrator Lynchard noted that with DeSoto now rated as attainment on ozone levels by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the cause for creation of the Ozone Action Committee has ended, and so can the five-member panel, which she praised for its hard work and diligence.
Board members decided to keep the panel, pointing out that it's still necessary to maintain ozone awareness and the committee assists public programs. Serving are Renee Hardaway of Olive Branch, Nancy Hardin of Southaven, Jan Knight of Walls, Bonnie Reid of Nesbit and Bill Speck of Hernando.
The supervisors also joined in the voluntarism. Caldwell was named to the North Delta Planning and Development panel and to Mid-State Opportunity board of directors; and Supervisor Bill Russell of Walls as representative to the Memphis Area Association of Governments.
Also at the board's first meeting of the year, the presidency shifted and it was Michael Lee's turn. Supervisor Mark Gardner of Southaven was selected as vice president for the year.
Lee said it was a bittersweet moment to get the gavel.
"It's a little bit sad, because about now it would have been Harvey doing this," said Lee of his brother and predecessor in office, who was fatally injured in 2014 in an off-road accident. The board named Michael Lee to fill his brother's unexpired first term and the popular Hernando barber was elected to a full term in 2015.
Relinquishing the president's post was the board's longest-serving member, Supervisor Jessie Medlin of Olive Branch, in his seventh four-year term. He figures he's served as president "six or seven times." Medlin said a key to a successful go at the gavel is communication, "just making sure that the staff keeps us informed, and everyone knows what's going on. I don't like surprises and neither does anyone else."
Supervisor Russell, a phone company retiree serving his fifth term, also has had a few turns at the top, and he's happy to call it a career with the current term that ends in January 2020.
"Three years from now, I'll be 74, and that's enough for me," said Russell of not seeking a sixth term.
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, Ext. 241.