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WATER VALLEY – It’s time for the annual passing of the gavel for the Water Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, and Justin Canterbury will succeed Raymond Hawkins as the president. The installation of new board members and officers is typically a community-wide affair during the highly publicized banquet, but Covid concerns prompted the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 banquets.
Canterbury reports that otherwise it is business as usual for the chamber with planning underway for the Watermelon Carnival, a membership drive and other events.
“It’s crunch time right now,” the new president explained about the summer months leading up to the carnival. “We are planning the carnival as if it is going to happen on August 6 and 7 with all of the events – the vendors, food trucks, fireworks, barbecue contest, street dance and run.”
Canterbury cautioned that circumstances can change and the final nod on having the carnival will come closer to the event.
“And it may look a little different, there may be some requirements we will have to work around. But we need to plan for it instead of waiting until the last minute,” he told the Herald.
The Chamber board will have their first meeting with newly elected board members – Dr. Kimberly Webb, Randy Goodwin, Tonya Eubanks and Karen Turnage – on May 10. Board members serve three-year terms. The meeting will include committee assignments for the carnival for each director on the 12-person board.
Big Shoes To Fill
Canterbury’s term starts in May and comes after a difficult year. It was the second time in history the carnival was canceled due to a global disruption – the first being the start of World War II in 1941. Hawkins was at the helm of the Chamber during the height of Covid during the last year, guiding the organization and town commerce using creative strategies.
“There is not a better guy than Raymond Hawkins, I have big shoes to fill,” Canterbury acknowledged. “He is a good leader, a good spokesman and a man of good character. He had a tough job.”
Ironically Hawkins is also the person who first reached out to Canterbury when he first came to the community to work at Regions Bank.
“I didn’t even know Raymond when I started at Regions. He came one day and invited me to Rotary. I joined the Rotary and it just took off from there, as far as community involvement,” Canterbury explained.
He also credits the close-knit community for helping guide his banking career. Before Canterbury entered the banking world, he worked as a deputy sheriff for five years in Lafayette County. An addition to the family prompted him to reassess his career.
“Callie and I just had our little girl, Emma Kathryn,” Canterbury explained. “I looked at life a whole lot different, it was time to find something else.”
A good friend who worked at Regions Bank steered him to an opening at the Water Valley location, and he launched a new career.
“It has been a great experience from there. I worked at Regions Bank for 18 months. Then Regions left Water Valley and Tommy Jones hired me to work at Renasant,” he explained. “The people in the community told Tommy Jones to hire me. Water Valley just wrapped their arms around me and accepted me like I was one of their own,” the Grenada native added.
After starting as an assistant manager at Renasant, he was promoted to branch manager when Janet Dickey retired.
“I think the Lord put me here. He led me to become a deacon at First Baptist Church,” Canterberry said about the doors that opened for his family in Water Valley.
Although the carnival is a busy time for the Chamber volunteers, Canterbury shared exciting news about his family that will take priority.
“Callie and I are expecting a son at the end of July, which is right around carnival time,” he explained. Canterbury said juggling his responsibilities is possible due to the support from his wife.
“She is my best supporter, she has put up with me being gone, going to meetings. She is a full-time, stay-at-home mother who is amazing,” he added.