Something as basic as thinking for oneself is key to the continued success of our community according to columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian, who was guest speaker at the Union County Development Association annual membership meeting this past wee. 

Crawford has had an extensive career in journalism and public service including politics, development healthcare and helping keep the Naval Air Station in Meridian from closing. His column appears in the Gazette from time to time.

 “I’m a fact- and data-oriented column writer,” he said, not a motivational speaker, but he still provided information that could motivate.

Crawford quoted no less than Winnie-the-Pooh, who in times of stress would place paw to head and say “Think.”

“But who has time to think today,” he asked, “when social media thinks for us, influences us but not informs us.”

“I use facts and data to challenge propaganda and propagandists,” he said. “I want to incite critical thinking.”

Crawford used the example of the half-filled glass, saying that for Union County it is half full rather than half empty, as most of those present said they believe.

“You’re right to be optimistic,” he said. “Population growth is up five percent, college-educated adults are up from 18 to 24 percent.”

He added that the Appalachian Regional Commission has changed New Albany’s rating from “at-risk” to “transitional.”

But on the other hand one in four kids live in poverty, we are below the state average income and our older population is growing rather than the younger population.

While Union County’s glass may be half full, most saw the state’s glass as half empty, struggling with income, healthcare and education.

He asked why the legislature has not enacted a gasoline tax to help with roads and bridges, noting that the last previous gas tax increase came from the 1987 four-lane highway program late Rep. John David Pennebaker was recently honored for.

In another analogy, he used a three-legged stool to represent a successful community with the legs needed for support, braces to stabilize it and the seat to hold it all together. Doing the homework, having the resources, the leadership and a sense of mutual benefit are essential to success, according to this.

“Concentrated power is the enemy of mutual benefit,” he said. “Beware of leaders who crave power for its own sake.”

He thinks the three-legged stool idea applies to what New Albany is doing well, but cautioned against complacency.

Like Winnie-the-Pooh, he concluded, “Think.”

The program Monday included the presentation of awards.

The first-ever Distinguished Service Award was given to New Albany Gazette Editor J. Lynn West. “He’s always where he needs to be,” UCDA Executive Director Phil Nanney said. “He always tells the truth. He writes real journalism, not fake journalism.”

The Business of the Year Award was given to Master-Bilt Products, which started in 1938 with three friends designing coolers for milk cans. Nanney said they have become one of the most diversified manufacturers of commercial refrigeration equipment in the world.

“They are considered by many to be the best in the industry,” Nanney said. “Over the years they have developed a record for quality and customer service.”

Manager Kerry Hodges accepted the award for Master-Bilt.

The award for Citizen of the Year, voted on by the UCDA board, went to New Albany musician Sam Mosley both for his extensive musical achievement but also for his years of community service.

He is not only a performer but writer with gold records to his credit along with long-time partner the late Bob Johnson. In addition to participation in general community affairs, he is recognized as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail with a marker near the Union County History Museum.

“He is a community leader in music and history and many ways and is just a downright good guy,” Nanney said.

UCDA President Michael Brown held a brief business session in which Aubrey Blakemore, David Joiner and Joel Bennett were recommended by a nominating committee to serve four-year terms on the board of directors. Bennett is new to the board while Blakemore and Joiner are completing terms.

There were no other nominations and the three were elected.

Colt Doom will serve as president-elect.

Other members of the board include Dr. Tommy Barkley, Dave Kitchens, Mike Staten, Alan Greer, Bill Rutledge, Walter Grace, Rusty Berryhill and Frankie Prescott. Representing the Union County Board of Supervisors are President Chad Coffey and supervisor Steve Watson. Representing the City of New Albany are Mayor Tim Kent and alderman Will Tucker. Chandler Rogers serves as ex-officio board member.

Phil Nanney is executive director of the UCDA and Joanne C. Lesley is the executive assistant.

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