| By John Howell Sr.
Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed brought what he calls a "pastoral" approach to the office when he was sworn in last July.
"There’s a lot of things that can come about if you just open up some doors and knock; if you go out seeking, you will find it," said the mayor, who has also been a pastor since 1978, currently serving New Morning Star Church in Clarksdale.
Knocking has brought him to the door of a casino supplier which Reed hopes will soon make an announcement of a new industry in his job-starved town.
His seeking helped to give Crenshaw a new look during the holidays.
Announcement of an industry is yet premature, but Reed said that with the help of Board of Supervisors’ President Robert Avant and County Administrator David Chandler, Crenshaw is seriously courting the casino supplier which could employ up to 150 people.
"It would help bring life back in Crenshaw," the mayor said of the economic engine that the number of employed could become.
During November, the mayor said, he sent a letter to the mayor in Batesville seeking the loan of one of the stars used in its Christmas decorations.
That star became the model for a dozen such stars mounted on Crenshaw’s Main Street. Under them passed Crenshaw’s largest Christmas parade in years, Reed said.
"We were blessed to have the Quitman County High’s Vo-Tech department; they made our new Christmas lights," Reed said.
Cost to Crenshaw: About $800, the mayor said.
Economizing on Christmas decorations seems to be good policy under the circumstances. Reed said the town was in arrears when he took office, up to $90,000 and two years behind on some payments.
"Everybody was trying to close us down; at times my main job was to give Peter and Paul a little bit each," he said, "so we managed it and got it down."
In addition to his jobs as mayor and pastor, Reed teaches special education at Crenshaw Elementary, his 24th year in the profession.
Sitting behind the desk in his office in the Crenshaw Town Hall, Mayor Reed’s salt-and-pepper gray hair and eyebrows contrast slightly with his whiter, "Foo-Manchu"-style mustache and goatee, creating a distinguished visage, implying wisdom. The twinkle in his moist, brown eyes seems to project good will.
It is only the walker placed nearby that suggests Mayor Reed’s life has recently included additional complications beyond those that arise from serving as a public official, teacher and minister.
Mayor Reed’s left leg was amputated in November after a long struggle that started with a small sore on his foot. He is diabetic.
"It’s the worst disease there is," the mayor declared. "It’s a slow killer; it attacks everything there is."
Reed said that his struggle with the disease was not unexpected. It runs in his family.
Prior to the surgery that took his leg, Reed underwent two less drastic surgeries to remove toes in an attempt to stop the diabetes-enhanced infection’s spread.
During his hospitalization, first in Batesville and later in Greenwood, Reed, who said he had previously "never been in the hospital other than as a pastor in visits," made a discovery:
"As a pastor, it’s easy to tell someone that everything’s going to be okay if you’re not the one who is sick."
The subsequent soul-searching from his hospital bed led him to realize that "on your healthiest day, you’re still sick enough to die," he said.
During his absence from Crenshaw, City Clerk Renee Ward and Water Department Clerk Pearlie Armstead would call every day.
"Every two or three days, they would get everything together that needed to be done" and bring it to the hospital, the mayor said.
"We have come together in so many ways to go after growth, grants and any way that will make Crenshaw a better community," Reed added.
The community also came together and pulled for him, Reed said, expressing appreciation for the cards, prayers and visits during and after his illness.
The Crenshaw mayor now waits for a prosthesis to be fitted which will aid his mobility.
And he’s still adjusting.
"The other day I woke up and threw one foot out of bed and got ready to get up and realized the other foot wasn’t there."