Mayor Autrey still has to-do list

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2021

By Carrie Stambaugh

Mayor Jerry Autrey has served four terms as Mayor of Batesville but there is still plenty of work he wants to get done. That’s why he is seeking his fifth term.

“I like to do this. If it is something you like to do you go to work every day and you hate to quit,” said Autrey.

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His “to do” list is quite long, and he is quick to note the work isn’t done by him alone but a coalition of city and county officials working with state and federal agencies and other partners like the Panola Partnership and, of course, the cities residents.

“I’m a ‘we’ mayor,” said Autrey. “I can only do so much. You have so many people who have to work together to get these projects done,” he said, “It’s a work together town. That’s what we do.”

Now back to that list.

First on it is finishing up the second-phase expansion of The Concourse project, which the city was notified last night it will be able to bond another $2 million for. “I think it is a game changer for Batesville and the surrounding area,” explained Autrey noting the project has the power to transform the local economy through the high employability of the young people coming out of the program. “It’s just a tremendous project and I want to be a part of it to make sure it is completed.”

Second on his list is overseeing the completion of the new fire station, water and sewer department buildings on the west side of town, along with the installation of those city-wide cameras. But it is the creation of a new multi-purpose community center that will include a full-size basketball court, in addition to classroom space where students can receive after school tutoring or computer classes that he is most excited about. There was just enough land left over from the construction projects to put the center on that side of town, he notes, and he’s now working on getting state and federal grants to make it a reality.

“People want places they can go and take their children,” he explained, which brings him to the next item on his list.

The parks. There is the Batesville Mounds Park, Patton Lane Park and The Trussell Park, all of which Autrey hopes to continue improving. At Trussell Park he wants to see the city build some restroom facilities for the families that flock to the waterpark there, while at the Mound Park he foresees the pond being stocked in addition to making it more accessible to locals with four-legged friends. All of these projects, he noted, “are coming along real good.”

From the Boy Scouts who have embraced the Mounds Park, creating bridges over some of the sloughs and hosting their campouts there, to the waterpark at the Trussell Park that brings families to splash and play, providing spaces for families “is a great thing,” said Autrey.

Finally on his list is one of the most important and continuous projects a mayor has: industrial and retail development.

At the interstate cloverleaf, “there are many acres that can be developed,” although he notes that space is sold by the square foot, while at the industrial park there are some 400 acres that need to be filled with factories. “Both of those are priorities,” said Autrey.

He said the city has had good success in working with its partners to filling vacant industrial buildings in the last three years. Factories left vacant by Batesville Casket, Tucker Manufacturing, and Serta – have found new life as GreenServe, Blauer, and CITE Armored. Now he wants to see new buildings built.

From the days when Autrey worked hand-in-hand with Gov. Haley Barbour to bring GE Aviation to Batesville to the present when he has his eye on building a new tennis facility and additional ballparks to host regional softball tournaments (which bring thousands to city businesses) the Mayor stays on the move.

Sure, his plate is full, said Autrey, “but I’m still trying to add on to it. I’d like to finish up some of these projects and keep us moving forward. I just love what I’m doing.”

So, he keeps adding. There is the Civic Center that even though it will be paid off this year, will need to be maintained – and the local hospital that needs a continued strong partnership with the city.