Anne Stephens was named 2015 UCDA Citizen of the Year at the association’s annual membership banquet Monday night.
This is the second year for the award, determined from a list of nominees by Union County Development Association members and voted on secretly.
“The vote was overwhelming,” Dr. Tommy Barkley, board member and award presenter, said. “This award may be for one major event in a year or for a lifetime and this year’s was certainly for a lifetime of achievement. She has been so generous with her time and money to help the community.”
Last year’s recipient was Betsey Hamilton.
The UCDA also recognized the Stephens family in another way with a new event.
The organization honored Union Lumber Company, a Stephens family business, as one of the oldest continually owned and operated companies in the community.
“They have been a stalwart business since 1902,” UCDA Executive Director Phil Nanney said. “They have been a partner in the development and growth of the county.”
Although honoring Union Lumber Company was already planned, it also helped banquet organizers get Mrs. Stephens’ children to attend Monday with her knowing why otherwise.
“Y’all really put one over on me,” she said. “I did wonder why my children came to see me from South Carolina.”
The guest speaker was former Tupelo mayor and now, again, president of R. W. Reed Co. Jack Reed Jr.
In introducing Reed, board member Bill Rutledge said people know him because he’s been in everyone’s living room, either because he was mayor or because of the store, but his dedication to Tupelo was paramount. “If you cut him he would bleed Tupelo,” Rutledge said. “I am certain he ran for mayor for the right reason, that he could provide a service to the people of Tupelo.”
Reed’s resume lists a wealth of accomplishments, both as mayor and as a community volunteer. His involvement includes the Community Development Foundation, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Kiwanis, Good Samaritan, Downtown Main Street and the Mississippi Economic Council.
“I’m proud of being from Tupelo but I’m also proud of being from North Mississippi,” he said, and listed several achievements including the 1987 Highway Program and, more recently, the PUL Alliance that helped bring Toyota here.
The common thread for all these was cooperation. “You look through the Hubble telescope and see photos of Earth,” he said, but you see no county lines, no district lines, just continents. “It really gets you away from looking at your navel,” he said.
Reed quoted a saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
New Albany already has much to be proud of, from an outsider’s point of view, Reed said. As an old tennis player, he first mentioned the new tennis complex and nearby sportsplex, the downtown, and the parks.
“The ultimate government responsibility is to create a quality of place,” he said. “So we can then create a quality of life.
While cooperation is a recurring theme for Reed, so is diversity. “You need neighborhoods of different economic levels,” he said, so young couples have potential rungs up, and he believes that “every part of town is a good part of town.”
Reed also praises moderation. “You don’t hear elected officials much saying ‘I’m proud to be a moderate,’” he said.
“They (moderates) are the people who get things done,” he said. “Tolerance is a virtue. Things are accomplished when people move to the middle.”
“I think it takes courage to say you are a moderate,” he said.
“You ask not for big government, not for small government, but what you need is smart government,” he continued.
Reed closed by saying that some research shows your friends are quieter and more private in your praise while your critics will be louder, angrier and more public.
“It makes a tremendous difference to get praise from the quiet majority,” he said.
The meeting included a brief business session during which Bob Cornelius of Cornelius Law Firm, David Joiner of Joiners Cleaning Service and Aubrey Blakemore of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi were nominated and unanimously elected to serve three-year terms on the UCDA board.
At the same time, Rusty Berryhill was named incoming president. Mike Staten, Dave Kitchens and Colt Doom composed the nominating committee..
Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County Administrator and CEO Walter Grace was emcee and outgoing president Gary Cooper thanked people for their help during his terms of office.
The New Albany High School Jazz Bands provided music, the meal was prepared by the Vocational Center Culinary Arts Class and decorations were by the Pilot Club of New Albany.
The UCDA board comprises Rusty Berryhill as president, Walter Grace as president-elect, Gary Cooper as past president, Danny Jordan and Randy Owen from the Union County Board of Supervisors, Tim Kent and Will Tucker from the New Albany city government, Dr. Tommy Barkley, Dave Kitchens, Mike Staten, Alan Greer, Michael Brown, Bill Rutledge, Colt Doom, Frankie Prescott, new electees Blakemore, Cornelius and Joiner, and board attorney Thad Mueller, non-voting ex officio.