Headlines – 8/17/2004

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Panolian Headlines: August 17, 2004

For complete stories, pick up the 8/17/04  issue of The Panolian
Signs of Change
Employees of Custom Signs added new life to some old signage in the Gateway shopping center last week. The main sign listing now includes all open businesses in the center.
MDA Head Stresses Curb Appeal
    to Community
By Jason C. Mattox
News Editor


Mississippi Development Authority Director Leland Speed told a group of Panola County community leaders "Manufacturing ain’t where it’s at anymore."

He said while Mississippi lost 67,000 manufacturing jobs it picked up 120,000 service sector jobs and noted that not only have manufacturing jobs been lost in Mississippi and the U.S., but all over the world.

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Speaking at John Kyle Park near Sardis August 9, Speed said the explosion in productivity has reduced the need for manufacturing labor and while not advising communities to give up on luring manufacturing jobs to their areas, he recommended alternatives.

Speed told the group that they were actually in the real estate business, selling their community and its assets to site selectors, manufacturing concerns and people looking for a place to live.

He cited nearby Oxford as a good example and said "Plants won’t look at anywhere else but Oxford–they have demonstrated the ability to deliver."

Speed emphasized curb appeal, saying, "Making it (your community) look good is not an option."

"You can’t show me a pretty town that isn’t doing well," Speed said and added, "If you let nature take its course, it’s going to look like hell."

Speed is upbeat about opportunities for small towns to develop and grow. He said that people formerly moved to large population areas to find jobs.

"Now, people decide where they want to live and then look for a job," he said and added that those people are looking for smaller communities that offer quality of life.

He pointed toward DeSoto County and said that instead of building malls, developers are building little communities with streets and small shops with housing in the upstairs.

Small communities already have this in place and can take advantage of it by sprucing up existing areas and sprucing it up.

He offered alternatives in the form of service sector jobs.

"If you’re not in the health care industry, you’re not a player," Speed said, stating that of 139 job descriptions where there were shortages in the state, 45 were health care related.

"We are no longer an agricultural state," Speed said, noting that there are 37,000 people employed in agriculture in Mississippi and 36,000 employed in the casino industry–and the casino number is rising.

The MDA Director said that his department has more industrial prospects than ever, "…but they are very picky."

He said having a flat piece of land suitable for development with nearby utilities is not what industrial prospects are looking for and encouraged "looking at the big picture" by focusing on the downtown area, by-passes, and corridors.

Speed should know. His real estate and business concerns handle billions in assets all over the country. The Mississippi Legislature had to pass special legislation that would allow him to work free–since the state couldn’t afford him–after he was appointed by Governor Haley Barbour to the position.

Speed also said that a proposed by-pass south of Batesville offered unique opportunities. He recommended controlling signage, limited access and unique landscaping stating that each community should have a uniqueness.

He called for elected public officials to "step up" noting that mega-stores, chain stores and bank branches had replaced many of the independent businesses whose owners had formerly been in the forefront of development in small communities.

Mayor’s Race Wide Open in 2005
Baker Will Not Seek Re-Election at Close of Term
By Jason C. Mattox
News Editor


Following 29 plus years of service, one of Batesville’s longest serving mayors will retire at the end of this term.

Mayor Bobby Baker told The Panolian last week that he has no interest in seeking another term in the office he has held since 1976.

"I just want people to know that I will not be running for mayor in the upcoming municipal election," Baker said. "I believe that my age and time in office are reason enough for me to retire."

Baker said before making the announcement he met with his political advisors and spoke with his wife at length about the decision.

"I want to make certain that all of the people who have voted for me over the years know just how thankful I am for their support, but the time has come for me to hang it up," he said.

While Baker admits his narrow victory over challenger Jerry Autry in 2001 did factor into his decision, it was not the major factor.

"When you have been in office as long as I have you do things that some people are not going to like," he said. "There are a lot of things that have added up, not just that last election, that helped lead me to this decision.

"There are a lot of issues that come up when you spend that much time in office," Baker said.

The mayor insisted he has no interest in continuing his political career in another office.

"My career in politics is over," he said. "It’s time for me to leave on my own terms and enjoy retirement."

As for the mayoral race in 2005, Baker said he will not get involved.

"I am going to stay out of the race," he said. "This is going to be an open race and it is anybody’s to win."

During his lengthy term of service to the people of Batesville, Baker has been pro economic development in the area.

"You have some mayors that want things to stay the way they are, but I think this city has experienced a good bit of growth over time," he said.

"That’s the thing I want to be most remembered for is the growth of the city," Baker continued. "I was here when the McDonald’s opened and I have seen countless other developments from roads to the Super Center.

"I am very proud to have served the people of the city as long as I have," he said. "I am going to miss seeing things happen, but I think the city will continue to grow."

Baker said he will also miss the contacts he has made during his time as mayor.

"You make a lot of friends like governors, senators and representatives," he said. "I am going to miss the relationships I had with them."
As for retirement, Baker said he will just be leaving the political arena, not his chosen profession as a real estate broker.

"I will be more available at the Century 21 office," he said. "So I won’t be out playing golf or chasing women. I’m too old for that, and I have enough to keep me busy."

Nelson Murder Suspect Heads for Court Today
By Jason C. Mattox
News Editor


A Lambert man accused of murdering an Ole Miss student will be in court for a preliminary hearing today.

According to Investigator Mark Whitten of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, Demetrius Smith will appear in Sardis before Justice Court Judge James Appleton.

This will be the second preliminary hearing for Smith after family members decided to hire a new attorney thus removing David Walker from the case.

Walker will be replace with Jim Powell.

Smith is charged with the alleged murder of Carnesha Nelson, an Ole Miss student who’s body was found in the Engineers Point of Sardis Lake.

The Panolian has learned Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly will serve as prosecutor for the hearing.

The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether or not their is enough evidence for the matter to proceeds to the Panola County Grand Jury.

It is unknown at this time what will become of motions filed by Walker on Smith’s behalf prior to the change in attorneys including a motion to dismiss the charge of murder for lack of jurisdiction and proper venue.

According to the motion, filed with Circuit Court Clerk Joe Reid’s office, both the sixth amendment and Article III, section 26 require that criminal proceedings against a criminal defendant be conducted in the county in which the alleged crime occurred.

"The defendant expects that the proof in this case will show that any crime that was committed against Carnesha Nelson was committed in Lafayette County and not Panola," the motion said.