Published 12:00 am Friday, January 8, 2016

Phelps: key to prosperity is economic development

By Rupert Howell
Being the only new member of the Panola County Board of Supervisors is causing high expectations among some constituents of Donald Phelps who will be in his first official meeting of that governing board next Monday, January 4.
But Phelps quickly makes known that he has just one vote on the five-member board and must work with a majority in order to get meaningful policy or changes made.
Phelps has some concerns about road maintenance, administration and management and other areas of county government where supervisors have a role in their decision making.
His campaign ads last summer included mention of the two miles of gravel road he must travel if he left his home headed north to work.
“I have to drive two miles from my house to find a pothole,” his ad said, referring to fact that a road must be paved to have a pothole.
He wants people to know that those roads are still gravel but have been included in the long range road plan for resurfacing prior to him becoming supervisor.
Phelps readily admits that his father-in-law, Reid Buntin, along with others, talked him into seeking political office. Buntin has been active in Panola politics for decades and held the contract for food service at Panola County Jail for many years under five different sheriffs.
And the new supervisor has been preparing for the position long before being elected by regularly attending supervisor meetings. Since elected he has also attended an orientation conference and next week will attend another two-day conference.
But by attending those meetings and asking questions Phelps says he has learned the hard lesson that if Panola County is to prosper and have money to do the things that citizens want done, the answer is more economic development.
He alluded to building a few houses in the county during a year’s time will not raise enough property tax revenue to pave much road, although developing a neighborhood full of houses might have an impact.
Then he takes it a step further and says one of the biggest factors needed for economic development is a skilled or trainable workforce. He then logically surmised that to have people trained or in a position to learn a skill, support for education has to be a priority.
Meanwhile Phelps is dowsing rumors that ‘flame-up’ and accompany change or a new face in the mix.
“I don’t know why people, my friends, believe these. They won’t call (and ask).
(Supervisor meetings are held on the first and second Monday of each month at 9 a.m. with the first being held at the Sardis Courthouse and the second in Batesville. County officials were sworn into office for the new term Tuesday, December 29.)

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