"Service in Season"
By Mr. Mike Smith
President, Lee County Board of Supervisors
Providing the people of Lee County with the best and most efficient county services is of utmost importance to me, and I believe it is the duty of your Lee County Board of Supervisors. Lee County has a proven history of good service and we have continued that trend this year. Many talented individuals work behind the scenes with the Board, and I would like to thank and recognize them for all they do for Lee County.
Ronnie Bell has recently returned to Lee County to serve as your County Administrator, and the board is proud to have him serve in this role. Mr. Bell has been a faithful public leader for many years and will make sure the daily responsibilities of county service are being met. I would like to thank our Chancery Clerk, Mr. Bill Benson, for also serving as interim County Administrator while the Board worked to fill that role.
Providing a reliable solid waste pickup service is one of the many standard functions of county government. This is a service that impacts everyone in some way and Terry McGlaun, Solid Waste Director, has done a tremendous job handling this component of Lee County government for many years. This year, the Board transitioned that service to a private contract with Waste Management, a national company that handles curbside waste pickup for the City of Tupelo. Significant changes like this can sometimes cause short-term friction, but in the long run, it will be best for the people of Lee County.
The leadership and work of our county road crews continue to shine at the helm of Lee County Road Manager, Tim Allred. After storm damages in early April, our crews managed all the work to clean up our county byways safely and ensured our citizens could quickly return to daily life. Mr. Allred has successfully been coordinating road projects, managing road crews, and coordinating cleaning efforts after storms since 2004.
Another county leader whom I would like to recognize is Dana White of the Lee County Multi-Purpose Center. Funded by Lee County and Three Rivers Planning and Development District, this day program is for Lee County residents aged 60 and above who can gather at the center free of charge to enjoy meals and activities together. The Lee County Multi-Purpose Center, normally open five days a week, is located on Cliff Gookin Boulevard in Tupelo, with satellite centers in Saltillo, Verona, and Pratts. Lee County is fortunate to have Ms. White leading this program since 2017 where her passionate care for the elderly is an asset to our county.
Teresa Williams, Board Secretary/Administrative Assistant, is a tremendous asset to the Lee County Board of Supervisors. She handles many daily functions that help keep all department heads organized and county government operating efficiently. I am immensely grateful for Ms. Williams and all that she does to serve Lee County.
Lee County’s newest hire is Ms. Ashleigh Pharr, Veterans Service Officer. The veterans’ office is a free-of-charge service provided by the Board of Supervisors to the veterans of Lee County. The bulk of its work is helping veterans or their surviving family members apply for benefits including Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), pension, healthcare, and disability. The veterans’ office staff drives veterans to appointments in Memphis, visits nursing homes, and helps those administrators identify members who might be eligible for VA benefits and help facilitate that paperwork. The veterans’ office works closely with other organizations that assist veterans in anything they may need such as housing assistance, education benefits, mental health services, clothing, food, shelter, etc. Veterans and their families have a wide variety of programs and resources that they might be eligible for, and I am thankful for Ms. Pharr leading this office and helping connect veterans to those services they so deserve.
I would like to recognize and thank two fellow board members whom I have worked with for a long time and who are retiring at the end of this year. Mr. Billy Joe Holland has served Lee County for 24 years (12 as supervisor and 12 as assistant road manager). He has been a dedicated leader serving District 5 for many years. District 1 Supervisor, Mr. Phil Morgan, is another fellow board member retiring this year after 24 years of service to Lee County. Although at times we have not always agreed on everything, I am proud of the progress and achievements we have made together for the betterment of Lee County.
Lee County is excited to welcome two new incoming supervisors to the Board in 2024. Mr. Barry Parker will be serving District 5 and Mr. George Rutledge will serve District 1. I look forward to working alongside these highly qualified and well-regarded gentlemen as we continue to make Lee County a prosperous place to live and work in North Mississippi.
This past year 2023 witnessed an impressive surge in business expansion and innovation, indicating robust economic growth for Lee County. The creation of 321 new jobs highlighted a commitment to workforce development, offering meaningful opportunities to Lee County individuals seeking employment. Twelve companies, representing diverse industries, contributed $127 million in new capital investment, signifying a substantial vote of confidence in Lee County’s workforce and market. Furthermore, these investments contributed towards $14 million in new payroll, reflecting a firm dedication to investing in human capital and supporting sustainable economic development for the citizens of Lee County.
Key industry players driving this surge include two impressive defense contractors, Hyperion Technology Group and Hush Aerospace. Since its launch as a local startup, Hyperion has continued to refine its cutting-edge sensor engineering technology and recruit highly qualified engineering talent to Lee County. Hush Aerospace, headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA, announced this past summer its plans to relocate to Lee County. Breaking ground in early 2024, this aerospace company will build Unmanned Aerial Systems, also known as drones, in Lee County’s HIVE Business Park. In the manufacturing sector, Stanley, Black & Decker, a prominent tool manufacturer, formerly MTD Products, showcased growth and adaptability with its additional capital investments. Minority-owned Toyota supplier and logistics company, Go Systems, relocated to Lee County and contributes to the strong automotive sector we are grateful to maintain here in our county. The commitment of these companies exemplifies the mutual relationship between business expansion, job creation, and capital investment in fostering a prosperous economy.
Lee County has strong partnerships together with Three Rivers Planning & Development District and Community Development Foundation (CDF) that help us spur this type of economic growth. Just in the past year, the total value of all Lee County’s assessed property grew by 2.5%. This is truly a testament to Lee County’s commitment to economic growth and good partnerships allowing us to maintain low taxes for everyone. I am grateful for the work done by Three Rivers and CDF that supports Lee County and the Board of Supervisors.
It has been an honor to serve this year as your Board President and to celebrate the success of another great season. I look forward to a bright 2024 and wish you all a Happy New Year.