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Street Talk

By Mickey Howley

This coming Saturday morning is the opening day of the Water Valley Farmers Market. Market manager Kevin Guyer has been working hard getting things lined up. On the grass and under the big magnolia will be 13 different marker vendors. It will be the biggest opening day in many years. 

Singer Alanna Mosley, sponsored by Turnage Drugs, will be performing.  The hours are a bit different this year, shifting an hour later, now set at 9 to 12. Not only will there be lots of fresh green produce, but plenty of starter plants will be for sale for your own backyard veggie garden.

Last week the Valley had visitors here on Main Street. On Tuesday former Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court Bill Waller was on Main Street campaigning in his run to be the next governor. Bill is no stranger to this Main Street. He and his wife, Charlotte, are regular visitors to the Valley. Here is a personal disclaimer, their daughter Jeannie is the state coordinator for the Main Street program and I’ve worked with her for a decade. The first several years I knew Bill, he was just Jeannie’s dad, I did not know he was the top elected judge in the state. Bill is not afraid to pitch in and help.  

On one of their visits, a cold and bright Saturday morning, while a small group was wheelbarrowing and spreading dirt at the Pocket Park, Bill, Charlotte, and Jeannie passed by for an early lunch. Bill stopped and started working a shovel and stayed until the job was done. Jeannie and her mom shopped and they all had a late lunch. That’s the kind of guy he is. 

So, when I saw him campaigning on this Main Street and then going to Coffeeville, I wondered if the other candidates had been to places like the Valley before and did stuff with no politicking in mind. I wonder if we even are on their radar. We are on Bill’s.

Ed Gardner was here on Wednesday. Ed is an economic developer for Entergy and he’s also the current board president for the Mississippi Main Street Association. His visit was to fulfill a promise he made last summer to visit and see Mississippi Main Street towns. 

Ed has lived in Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, but he has never lived in a small town Water Valley size. Along with Kagan Coughlin, we walked over to the old Rice-Stix plant and talked about the future plans. Fully half of the 50 Mississippi Main Street program towns are under 12,000 in population. In a strange way the small size, normally considered a negative, can help these places, as effectively it takes less fixing to make a greater impact – impacts that benefit everyone.

 Looking for best practice impacts last Thursday were Brian Best and Ben Westfall. They came 700 miles from northeast Indiana. They had heard about the Valley via the Fair Companies YouTube video shot in the summer of 2016, which has now some 149k views and 433 comments. 

Ben and Brian work for a non-profit economic development group in rural DeKalb County, having four small towns in their county. They were here for 12 hours. I didn’t talk those whole 12 hours, alderman Cinnamon Foster helped, and we met and talked with many people. One can often learn from the folks who visit, as in their challenges and solutions, the wins and the fails, the results versus the resources.

 Brian sent me this yesterday, as they reported back to their whole group, “Of course, the largest reaction was to our dinner Thursday night at the Crawdad Hole. So much for preservation, historic districts, tax credits, economic development and fostering entrepreneurialism.” 

Sometimes it just takes good food and conversation. See you downtown at the Farmers Market Saturday morning.

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