| Autrey earns highs marks as humble,
| By Billy Davis
If a sure sign of wisdom is knowing you have more to learn, then first-term Batesville mayor Jerry Autrey might be evolving into a very good leader.
As Autrey passes the one-year mark this week, observers of his first year repeatedly gave the political newcomer high marks for humility and hard work.
"Mayor Autrey is a person who wants to learn," said second-term Alderman Rufus Manley. "He listens. He’s always good about listening."
"My impression is that (Autrey) wants to learn all he can because he wants to do the right thing as mayor," said Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow.
According to Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons, Autrey shows good leadership skills by acknowledging that he "didn’t take office with all the answers."
"There’s not a know-it-all attitude with Mayor Autrey, which is extremely important as a leader," said Simmons, who can relate to Autrey’s learning curve after serving as both mayor and alderman in Winona.
Since his election, Autrey seems to fulfill the role of mayor with a unique combination: an on-the-go work schedule as well as an informal, low-key manner.
"Jerry has more energy than three people combined. He’s got to be doing something," said the mayor’s wife, Mary Lou Autrey. "If he’s at home, he can’t sit still. He’s got to go mow the grass."
Morrow described the mayor’s personality as "easy going" but also noted his penchant for work.
"He’s in that office everyday. He’s made it a full-time job," Morrow said.
According to Autrey, however, he knows to leave the office issues at the office when he goes home.
"It messes everything up when you take work home with you. That’s a bad way to live," Autrey said. "I leave my cell phone on at night, but I turn it off when I go to bed."
| Mayor has plenty on his plate
| By Billy Davis
With a full year of political office behind him, Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey has plenty on his political plate for the coming year ? and probably for years to come.
A coming city budget, a long-range vision for the city, and the absence of the city’s vice mayor are just some of the issues facing the City of Batesville and its mayor.
According to Autrey, who enjoys a growing reputation as a penny pincher, keeping a close eye on the city’s spending is one of his most important goals.
"You’ve got to run the city like a business, and you’ve got to tighten up," Autrey said in an interview earlier this week, repeating a theme from his mayoral campaign last year.
Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow, who entered office with Autrey, said the mayor is "very conscientious" about spending taxpayers’ dollars.
"The mayor will try to cut anywhere he can," Morrow said, citing the use of city workers earlier this year to construct the gates on the Square.
A complicated bond issuance that helped float the city’s budget in past years has been eliminated this year, Autrey said, thanks to a thorough scrutinizing of taxpayers’ dollars.
"It’s still a tight budget, but we can see the light," Autrey said.
Citing an example of good money management, Autrey said he was alarmed when he learned about the monthly electrical bill at the former Panola Mills factory, where the street department operates from a front office.
"We were paying $3,000 a month for two air conditioners and an ice machine, and that didn’t make any sense," Autrey said. "We were paying the bill for a full-fledged factory."
After an electrician rewired part of the facility, the current bill averages about $100 a month, Autrey said.
On a smaller scale, changes to the city’s monthly BellSouth phone bill now saves the city about $200 a month, the mayor said.
Autrey sailed into office last summer with 59 percent of the vote, besting general election opponents Gary Kornegay and Dr. Richard Corson with a folksy campaign that was heavy on slogans and light on issues.
Once the election was over, however, Autrey almost immediately made economic development a priority and over the last year has said job creation is a main goal of his administration.
Although Batesville is awash in retail business, Autrey says he wants to lure more industrial jobs that traditionally raise a family’s income level.
"You need a base of factories that pay 10 dollars or 15 dollars an hour," Autrey said. "You’ve got to have somebody making good money to spend money on retail."
Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons, who recruits industries to Panola County, said Autrey works closely with the Partnership.
"I think the mayor is aggressive and knows where he wants Batesville to be, and he’s willing to do what it takes to get there," Simmons said.
One topic that Autrey approaches with caution is the absence of Vice Mayor James Yelton, the six-term alderman who suffered a stroke and so far is incapable of returning to his city seat.
Citing the sensitive subject, Autrey said he is hesitant to discuss the city’s options for filling the alderman’s seat.
"I don’t know if he’s able to return or not, but I really want to stay away from that (subject)," Autrey said. "James is good at crunching numbers and really anything dealing with finances, and that’s what we’re missing the most."
With Yelton absent, Autrey said he is relying more on veteran aldermen Bobbie Jean Pounders and Bill Dugger to help wade through the coming city budget. He also boasted about the expertise of City Clerk Laura Herron.
"Laura keeps an eye on the budget and everything we spend," Autrey said.
Looking farther into his first term, Autrey said city leaders must begin work on a new 10-year plan to manage the city’s growth and development.
"The current plan goes through 2010, and it’s probably already outdated," Autrey said. "We’ve got to figure out together where we want to go."
| Sardis board considers library funding
| By Jason C. Mattox
Sardis Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye and the board of aldermen are considering a five percent increase to the budget of the Sardis Public Library after a presentation from First Regional Library representatives.
Charlene Bradford, the local librarian, said the cuts the library suffered last year have been tough on them, but they have survived.
"The cuts to our budget caused us to reduce our operating hours," she said. "It also totally eliminated our book budget.
"But even as hard as this has been, we have started some new programs, and we have survived," Bradford added.
Some of the new programs added include a book-by-mail program where four books are mailed out to shut-ins each month, and can be returned by mail as well.
The library also started a computer class for pre-schoolers.
"We have some in this class that are probably able to use a computer better than some of you aldermen at this point," Bradford jokingly said.
Marty Coleman of First Regional presented the library’s budget request.
Coleman told city leaders all of the local money is spent on programs in the local library and would help restore some of the book budget.
Dye told both women their request would receive consideration when the city begins planning for its new budget.
"The library is a wonderful thing for the children of this community, and we all know they are the future leaders," he said. "We will do what we can to help you out."
|In other board business:
|| Roy Coley was given a one-year extension to clean up and repair his property at 217 Highway 51 South. Coley is about to go on active military duty for several months, but told aldermen he would shore up the structure before leaving.
|| City leaders discussed methods of resolving a drainage problem at Rock Hill Church.
"I have spoken with the county, and they are willing to help us," Dye said. "We are going to do what we can to try to make their drainage right."
|| Aldermen are awaiting confirmation of receipt for a $150,000 grant that would be used to construct a new 3,000 square foot police department.
|| Police Chief Mike Davis was given permission to attend a taser instructor certification course with expenses paid by the city.
| Manhunt all for naught
| Hot dog on the Fourth of July? Fido’s long tongue was an indicator of a sultry day as officers Jamie Tedford and Justin Maples called off their search for a fugitive between Highway 35 South and Highway 51 Tuesday morning.
| By John Howell Sr.
Panola sheriff’s deputies and Batesville police conducted an extensive manhunt south of Batesville between Highways 35 and 51 Tuesday morning.
"It was called in as a ‘home invasion,’" Panola County sheriff’s department investigator Mark Whitten said.
Investigation later revealed the episode was another "dope deal gone bad," the investigator continued. "We’re seeing more of it."
The episode involved four men. Two gave themselves up to officers immediately, Whitten said. Another gave up after his mother called, but the fourth ran when Batesville police officers approached him near Highway 35.
Officers tried "to get him hemmed up before he got back to Highway 51," he said. Officers suspended their search when they realized that they had three of four in custody and would likely learn the identity of the fourth person from the other three.
The fourth man called law enforcement officials later that day and came in Wednesday for interrogation, Whitten continued. No charges had been filed at press time as authorities continued to sort out the events with their investigation.
| Man falls for trick, is robbed
| By Jason C. Mattox
The Batesville Police Department is looking for suspects in an armed robbery that took place around noon Tuesday, July 4, in the Kroger parking lot, according to Det. Lee Martin.
The victim was not hurt, but was relieved of his cash.
Martin said the armed robbery began much like a pigeon drop scam, but escalated to an armed robbery.
A pigeon drop scheme involves an unsuspecting victim who is talked into letting the perpetrator "borrow" money with the promise of a large return on the investment. The large sum usually turns out to be as worthless as pigeon droppings.
In the July Fourth incident a black female in her mid-to-late 30s approached the victim in his car at Wal-Mart and asked for a ride to the bus station at Maggie T’s on Highway 35.
"She told him she had just gotten an insurance check and needed a ride to the bus stop," Martin said.
The victim told the woman he had come to Wal-Mart to wire some money. When he went into the store to conduct his business, the woman went with him. Apparently, the woman suspected the victim had more money with him after he transferred $500 by wire.
Next the woman told the victim she needed to stop at Kroger to see a friend. Video surveillance showed the victim was followed by a mid-sized maroon car that the first suspect had gotten out of at Wal-Mart before approaching the victim, according to Martin.
Once at Kroger, the female suspect started up a conversation with the second suspect in the maroon car, acting as she did not know him and was asking for directions.
"Somehow the man, a tall slender, well-dressed black male, managed to talk his way into the (victim’s) car," the detective said.
"Once he was in the car, he pulled out a small caliber automatic pistol and demanded the victim’s wallet, cash and CDs."
Martin said the victim left Kroger and returned to Wal-Mart to report the crime.
"We have examined the surveillance footage, but we have not been able to develop any leads," Martin said.
No arrests have been made and the case remains under investigation.
| City tacks $1 onto garbage
| By John Howell Sr.
Batesville residents will see an increase in garbage fees effective August 1, but city officials are anxious that they know that the increase is far less because of the new household garbage pickup agreement with Panola County.
The monthly charge to Batesville households will go to $9.50, up one dollar from the current charge.
City officials accepted the low bid of Panola County Solid Waste effective July 1. Panola County Solid Waste’s bid was $8.25 per resident and substantially less than than the next low bidder and previous contractor, Allied Waste of North Mississippi, which bid $12.37 per household. Bids from three other household garbage contractors ranged up to $14.88 per household.
The $1.25 difference between what the city is charged per household and what it will charge city residents starting August will be used to offset the cost of maintaining a rubbish dumpster on city property. City residents may dump household rubbish into the dumpster which is located in the old Panola Mills parking lot. The city is charged $250 each time the dumpster is removed and emptied, city officials said, a charge that amounts to approximately $35,000 annually.
"People have to have a place for rubbish; at least if they put it in there they won’t put it on the street," Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said.
City officials expressed disappointment at one change the county requested in the contract with Panola County Solid Waste. Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell and board of supervisors’ attorney Bill McKenzie have been working on the final details of the agreement between the city and county. As originally proposed, the contract would extend for three years at the end of which the city would have the option to renew under the same terms for an additional three years, Mitchell explained.
"They want the same right the city has," Mitchell said. "They’re really just obligating themselves to three years. Now it will take both" city and county to agree to renewal.
Aldermen in a 4-0 vote agreed to allow the county the three-year option with the stipulation that Mitchell include in the contract a requirement that the county notify the city about any changes 120 days prior to the end of the three-year contract.
| Past stars hit ring tonight
| By Jason C. Mattox
Heroes and villains of wrestling’s past will walk through the crowd of the Batesville Civic Center tonight and make their way into the "squared-circle" for one of the biggest displays of bodyslams and piledrivers ever seen in Batesville.
The event being touted as "A Night of the Wrestling Legends" is the brainchild of long-time wrestling promoter Kenny Valiant and his All-Pro Wrestling.
"Over the years, there have been legends in the ring in Batesville, but never has there been this many legends on one show," Valiant said.
The show will feature nationally known wrestling stars like Jerry "The King" Lawler, the Midnight Express, The Rock ‘n Roll Express, Kamala, Rick Steiner, Mr. Hughes, Tommy Rich and Doug Gilbert as well as regional favorites like The Asylum, Pure Destruction and Austin Lane.
"This is the kind of show people can take their children to," Valiant said. "It will be a throwback to wrestling when it was in its glory days. We want everyone in attendance to have a really good time."
Tickets for the show are available at the Batesville Civic Center box office. Bell time for the show is 7:30 p.m.
| History page debuts today
| "Blast From the Past," a new weekly history page, will begin running in today’s Panolian.
This page will give some readers the opportunity to reminisce, and it will give other readers a chance to visit a by-gone era.
On this page are photos and news from five, ten, 15, 25, and 50 years ago. There will also be the occasional 100 and 150 year ago surprise, too.
The articles chosen will pertain to events, whether across the sea or across the street, which directly affected the lives of Panola County residents.
The new feature also includes a photo identification contest. Readers are invited submit identifying information, with a cash prize going to the person who provides the most complete information. This week’s mystery photo is of a baseball team.
Sponsors are still needed to support and continue this page.
"It’s a great opportunity for advertisers who want to share the intense readership we anticipate for this page," John Howell, publisher of The Panolian, remarked.