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I think this one is number 624. That’s the number of columns I have written, like this one, the last one. Not a record, not even close compared to Betty columns, but still a sizable number. With a dozen exceptions for guest writers filling in for me, I’ve written one every week since February of 2009. You, my dear reader, have endured.
This is my last Street Talk column, as I am leaving the position as the Water Valley Main Street Association director. It has been my distinct pleasure in helping shape and revitalize our Main Street. I’ve worked with many people in the collaborative effort it takes for a small town to thrive. And I want to say thanks to all.
At the North Mississippi Herald, I would like to thank David, Betty, and Melody for putting up with me – and Jack.
Thanks to Jessie for being the first director of this Main Street, her ideas made us distinct in what can often be cookie-cutter methods in the small town rehabilitation world. I’ve tried to carry on that distinctiveness, in my own way.
For those working in our functioning downtown, let me thank the people who show up every workday on this Main Street and conduct business: an incomplete list includes; Binnie, Bobby, Joey, Cam, Justin, Glenda, Andi, Ron, Hubert, Hope, Lawton, Jennifer, Lazaro, Charmie, Barry, Dixie and Alexe. Like Elvis, they are first name recognition stars, and those are a few of the many.
I’d like to thank mayors Norris, Hart, and Gray, all the aldermen, and present and past city department heads, the city hall staff and the city employees for their support. Many projects could not have been accomplished without their help.
I’d like to thank the many people who have invested in downtown by renovating and rehabilitating buildings. You have heard me say many times Main Street is economic development through historic preservation. That means fixing buildings and getting people back living and working in them. That, my friends, has been and is a collective effort. There is some satisfaction in saying no other Mississippi town, on a per capita basis, has fixed so many buildings and added so many jobs as Water Valley has. I’ve used this expression before, we punch well above our weight class.
I’d like to thank the Art Council, especially Ramona, Bill, Pati and Betsy, whose strong leadership roles were behind much of the art happenings here. Under the non-profit umbrella of Main Street, the Arts Council brought together creative minds and unforgettable action.
For over a dozen years, the WVMSA has worked with 36 federal and state government entities, national and regional non-profits, universities, and local organizations. Mike and Sandra with the Appalachian Regional Commission gave us that early guidance and a positive boost in that liaison and advocacy work.
I’d like to thank all the local organizations who have worked with us – the Chamber, the Ambassadors, the garden clubs and the Lions. I’d like to thank Lee as well as the Water Valley Rotary Club; his idea to join Main Street and the Rotary seed money got things rolling.
I’d like to thank all the Farmers Market vendors over the years, especially Carline and Wilbur, Kerry and Kevin, and Gladne and David. It was always fresh and fun at the FM.
I’d like to thank two national level preservation people who have come here – Renee Kuhlman with the National Trust and Patrice Frey with National Main Street. Working with Renee and others, I was for once in the right place at the right time saying the right thing and the right line… for a big legislative save. Note: Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” is my life theme song. Patrice has highlighted and spoken of Water Valley’s program as a strong example for other Main Streets all over the country. When National Main Street went to the White House in late 2015, they took one representative town (of some 1,500 choices) to speak on behalf of the Main Street program. That was us. I never expected to speak at the White House in my life – a great memory.
Most of all, I’d like to thank all the WVMSA supporters and members. And the many board members who have guided this organization, a special thanks to Eddie, Cinnamon, Cliff and Charlotte.
Please if you have not, take the MSU local economic survey; see: yalnews.com for the link. Call, text or leave a message at 473-6767 if you want to attend the May 11th Mississippi Hill Planning Workshop here in Water Valley with Randy Wilson. We hope to win some best-in-state awards we just submitted, fingers crossed. Also looking forward to the USDA economic and design event in town later this year.
Thanks for reading this one and all my past columns. I’m signing off, see you around.