By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Long-time Chamber of Commerce volunteer and retired circuit clerk Mary Sue Stevens was presented the Braswell Hatchery Community Service Award at last Thursday’s annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet. The presentation by incoming president Tonya Eubanks was among highlights of the evening that also included Mayor Larry Hart’s State of the City Address and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves as the keynote speaker.
“This year’s recipient was born in Water Valley, has lived in Water Valley and has worked in Water Valley her entire life,” Eubanks said as she listed Stevens’ lengthy accomplishments and service in the community, as well as statewide recognition in various roles. Stevens attended Coffeeville High School and received an associate degree from Northwest Community College. She worked as the county’s circuit clerk for 25 years. She is also a past president of the Water Valley Chamber of Commerce and has published the Watermelon Carnival program for many years.
“I was getting ready to make a picture of somebody,” Stevens said as she took the podium, visibly surprised by the announcement. “I just enjoy going to work everyday, and doing what I do, giving back to the community,” Stevens said.
Stevens recalled her role in the Chamber, both when she was still working as circuit clerk and continuing after she retired.
“It is such a pleasure to work with people in Water Valley who love one another and work together for the betterment of Yalobusha County,” Stevens added.
The Chamber program also included the announcement of the Elliot Scholarship recipient, presented by outgoing Chamber president Tyler Hill. The scholarship is presented annually to recognize an outstanding young person in the community. Hill noted the scholarship is not based on grades nor is it based on need, “instead solely on community service,” as Jonathan Kent was introduced as this year’s recipient of the $2,000 scholarship.
Changing Of The Guard
“I have a new-found respect for those who lead a volunteer group, because it is something I have grown to love,” Hill said as he prepared to pass the president’s gavel to Eubanks after serving two years as the organization’s leader. “I do love this organization, I tried to lead with enthusiasm and passion.”
Hill credited a hard-working board who helped reenergize the annual Watermelon Carnival and add new events to the Chamber’s slate of events in the community each year
Hill said his passion was to make the Chamber a positive organization.
“Being positive about Water Valley, being positive about things going on and being positive about the people here,” Hill said.
Eubanks started her official duties by recognizing outgoing board members for their three years of service. The outgoing group included Hill, Dale Tyler, Glenda Gordon and Kim Ingram. Next she recognized new board members. They are Shannon Crow, Janet Dickey, Shelley Howell and Linda Maynor. New officers and current board members recognized included Nell Jobe, vice-president; Michelle Washington, treasurer; Charmie Weeks, secretary; Charlie Edwards; Toni Hill; and Dr. G.R. Orndorff.
State Of The City Address
The first speaker at each year’s event is the mayor with comments on the city’s progress during the State of the City Address.
Mayor Larry Hart outlined several projects completed during the past year including a $600,000 sewage project, a Main Street pavement overlay that included new striping, and the installation of two booster pumps on north Central Street that increased water pressure.
Hart also provided an update on the airport, reporting three of the slots are rented in the airport’s new hangar, leaving only one vacancy. The mayor also said the city was working on a pre-application with the FAA to fund a new electric gate and fuel farm at the airport.
Hart also said work is nearly complete on the installation of smart meters for the city’s water and electric customers.
“That means we get to do the meter reading from city hall,” Hart explained.
Next the mayor bragged on Water Valley’s Main Street Director, Mickey Howley. Hart reported the city was recognized at a recent National Main Street Conference in Atlanta, Ga. after the city received top honors out of 1,500 Main Street communities nationally.
“Your city, Water Valley, finished in the top seven, I think we need to give Mickey a hand,” Hart reported to a round of applause.
Hart also pointed to two people filling important new roles in the community – Jacob Edwards as the Crawford Sports Complex manager and Zandra Walker as the chamber’s manager.
Hart next reported a new restaurant is opening, explaining that Batesville resident Sidney Burns will open a barbecue restaurant in the former Water Valley Cafe building across from City Park.
Hart closed his remarks by reminding attendees to thank God for the wonderful things going on in Water Valley.
“Thank God for the good things going on in our town. We have a lot of wonderful things going on, a lot of good churches… God is very much alive in Water Valley,” Hart said in closing.