What makes Webster County “the place to be” right now?
On the cusp of several exciting developments, including the top 20 ranking of the Webster County School District, the creation of a tri-county economic development organization and the re-organization of Eupora Arts, Inc., the community seems to be making a few strides in the right direction.
Readers were given the opportunity to share their thoughts in an informal online survey on “What makes Webster County ‘the place to be’?”
Combined with recent interviews with local leaders regarding the challenges facing our community and what can be done to make improvements, a Top Ten list of “What makes Webster County ‘the place to be’?” easily emerged. The survey of local leaders was part of The Discovery Church Journey Bible study at Bellefontaine United Methodist Church. Leaders were given the opportunity to discuss the assets as well as the challenges facing the community and what churches and community organizations can do to help make Webster County a better place to live and work.
According to all the surveys, it is apparent that the people and leaders of Webster County love where they live. They have a sense of place and care deeply about the community.
“I’ve lived all over North Mississippi and (this) community is one of the most caring, loving of all,” said Gloria Mason. “I felt like I was part of a family while there 34 years ago…and still do!”
So, what makes Webster County “The Place to Be?”
10. Location: While location is a challenge, it is also an asset and one of the reasons that makes Webster County “The Place to Be.” The people that live here love the beauty of the rural setting – the hunting and fishing and beautiful natural landscape. At the same time, Webster County is conveniently located near Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, The University of Mississippi, East Mississippi Community College in Mayhew and Holmes Community College Grenada Center. The University of Mississippi and Mississippi University for Women are the furthest away, but are still within a two-hour drive. Lower housing prices and prices for land make Webster County an ideal housing market alternative for those working in Starkville, Columbus or West Point.
Jodi May said she has lived in Webster County only six years, but it is “not hard to feel at home here.”
“We call this ‘God’s Country’ for the wide open beauty of the landscape,” May said. “(And it is a) great place to raise kids.”
9. A Safe Environment: This is thanks to first responders. Both Amanda Richardson and SaraJane Curry listed “a safe environment” among their list of things that make Webster County “The Place to Be.” Sherry Hays said the K-9 unit has an “amazing drug dog.” And Eupora City Alderman Howard Rumore said “the volunteer fire departments” play a big role in keeping Webster County safe.
“I think drugs are always an issue that our society has to deal with…The Sheriff’s office and the police departments are constantly trying to catch drug dealers and they patrol as well as set up road blocks to catch violators,” said Webster County Public School Superintendent Jack Treloar. “(It is important to) Support our local law enforcement agencies and place high expectations on them.”
8. High School Sports/City Recreation Sports: Sports at all age levels is an important part of community life in Webster County. Both East Webster and Eupora High School consistently strive for excellence in their athletic programs, with at least one or more teams moving into post-season play.
“Sports in the schools help bring our community together,” said Eupora Mayor Dan Burchfield. “The schools have done an excellent job as noted by the many State, District and Regional Championships won by both schools.”
City Recreational sports brings teams from throughout the area to the community, particularly in during the baseball season, with many big tournaments held in Eupora. The economic impact of city recreational sports can not be denied in Maben, Mathiston or Eupora. Restaurants are full and gas stations are particularly busy on game nights and Saturdays.
7. Food: Have you been to a church potluck? As Southerners, we pride ourselves on good down home cooking, and that’s just what you will find all over Webster County. And if you just can’t find someone to cook for you, there’s always…the Traceway Cheeseburger! Everyone loves the buffet at Larry’s; the catfish plate at Pepper’s Race II; the chicken salad at The Sandwich Shop; chicken nachos at Los Encino’s; barbecue plates at J.J.’s; catfish at Wade’s; fried green tomatoes and the small barbecue sandwich at Central Station Grill. YUM!
Jodi May said “there’s always great food and when you walk in (to a local restaurant), they know who you are and what you’re going to order.”
6. Eupora Arts: The group is reorganizing this fall with the hopes of bringing interesting and creative events and opportunities to the Webster County community. It will be a great opportunity for artists and those interested in theatre, visual arts and making art a fun part of the lives of local children. Craig Bjorgum of Eupora Arts, said the BLY building will serve as the “home” for community arts programming.
“We are fortunate to have a building, to have a place to call ‘home,’” Bjorgum said. “We need to maximize this space and provide opportunities for the community to becoming involved (in the arts locally).”
Webster County is also “home” to many nationally recognized artists including William Dunlap, Pete Shumpert and Sam Gore, as well as many talented and well-recognized local artists.
5. Tri-County Regional Economic Development: Webster County Supervisors are working with leaders from Montgomery and Choctaw Counties to organize the Tri-County Regional Economic Development organization.
Pat Cummings, president of the Webster County Board of Supervisors, said the loss of manufacturing and other jobs from Webster County in recent years is the most immediate issue facing the county. He said losing industry costs everyone in the County, through job loss and tax revenue.
“It puts a hardship on the county as a whole,” Cummings said. “We are focusing on economic development to help bring jobs and tax revenue back to the tax payers of Webster County…we need everyone to promote our county with a positive attitude…we need the whole county pulling in the same direction to meet our goals to be a better community.”
Eupora Mayor Dan Burchfield said the development of the new organization is a big step toward recruiting industrial and manufacturing job.
“By joining forces, we are able to pool our money and resources to hopefully do a much better job in recruiting industry,” Burchfield said. “Only be uniting with other towns and cities can we hope to have the organizational leadership needed to do the things our community needs to improve our quality of life and make the area more attractive to young income-producing families.”
4. Churches: SaraJane Curry listed our churches and praying citizens on her list of great things about Webster County. Amanda Richardson also listed local churches.
Jack Treloar said the church is the foundation of our community.
“We should use the churches as a focal point where we can come together on common ground,” Treloar said. Each community has strong church ties and we should use that to work on any issues or problems (facing this community). If all the churches came together to solve problems and issues within this community, there would be no limit to what we could do.”
State Representative Joey Hood said he believes churches play a major role in shaping our communities.
“The church is instrumental in making an impact in our communities,” Hood said. Since school prayer has not been allowed for years, many of our youth have not been exposed to the teachings of the Bible.”
Hood said there are a lot of opportunities for churches to make a positive impact in the community, citing adult literacy programming and student tutoring programs as possibilities.
“This county’s future is based on our relationships with our churches and the role Christians play in our communities,” said Pat Cummings, Webster County Supervisor. “The number one way for the churches to help this community is to continue to pray for this county.”
3. Hospital: North Mississippi Medical Center: Webster Hospital plays a vital role in the health and well-being of the community and its people.
“North Mississippi Medical Center is a real asset to our community,” said Eupora Mayor Dan Burchfield. “We have the best equipped hospital in the entire region. You would have to go to Attala County in the south, Lafayette County in the north, Greenville to the west and Starkville to the east to find a comparable hospital.”
2. Schools: Webster County Schools ranked in the top 20 school districts in the state of Mississippi – which is a major achievement considering the challenges facing the community. Both SaraJane Curry and Amanda Richardson listed the schools among their reasons Webster County is “the place to be.” Juanita Sutton said the “school system is top-notch.”
“Strong community and family support of school systems—plus great folks who will help you out when you need it,” are some of the reasons Becky Wilkes gave for Webster County being “the place to be.”
1. THE PEOPLE – The number one spot goes to the people of Webster County, by a landslide! Reba Thompson said, “A caring community!” Leanne McGarr said “The people — genuine, honest God-loving people!”
“When accidents happen, people come out of the wood work to help,” said Christie Colvin.
“A wide variety of people…lots of artistic talent,” said Jodi May. “And last but not least…there’s a large number of people who are in a love relationship with Jesus Christ! That makes the whole area feel good!”
~ published in At Home Webster County, October 2013 at Webster County the Place to Be