As my eight years as Mayor of the Town of Leakesville draws to a close, I would like to express my sincere and heartfelt appreciation to the citizens of Leakesville. Serving as your Mayor for eight years has been one of the highlights and great honors of my life. I would also be remiss if I did not extend my appreciation to all of the aldermen and the wonderful employees of the Town, who have labored under some very trying circumstances in the past eight years. The very same can be said of some of the wonderful and dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to promote Leakesville, and to the businessowners, their employees as well as the general public. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Looking back over the past eight years I am proud of the accomplishments this dedicated Board was able to accomplish. While some are well publicized and known, like the first ever expansion of the Town Limits, new downtown street lighting, acquisition of six acres of land for expansion of Bear Creek Park for recreation and soccer, renovation of Town Hall, construction of a new street for Universal Services, installation of fiber optic cable, and organization of the Town’s first ever Main Street Organization. On the other hand, some are little known like retiring over $400,000.00 indebtedness in 2019, increased funding to the library to maintain full-time operations, secured land for a new firehouse, upgrades and improvements to the Town’s sewer lagoon. Drilled a new well near the High School and added 4.5 miles of 6-inch water lines complete with fire hydrants. We also secured NRCS to complete two long term drainage projects on McLaurin and Lackey streets.
I am particularly proud of how the Town handled a serious 2013 financial crisis early in my term with sensible budgeting, equipment and personnel cuts, such as the Mayor, Aldermen, Municipal Judge, and Prosecuting attorney voluntarily suspending their pay as well as employees voluntarily taking pay cuts as well, among other painful measures. Like most small, county-seat towns, Leakesville’s finances have been particularly hard hit by an aging population, lack of taxable property, and the ever-increasing costs of health insurance and PERS contributions for employees. One of the most contentious issues has obviously been the elimination of the Town’s police force. Again, this decision was not made lightly nor in haste but after years of careful consideration and in consultation with auditors, C.P.A.’s and others, who recommended the action. Quite simply a small town cannot have one department consume the entire ad valourm tax collected plus several months of sales tax collections. So, instead of having to eliminate 24-hour coverage we sought a strategic and mutually beneficial partnership with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department.
I would encourage all the aldermen and mayoral candidates to pay a visit to Town Hall to review the Town’s yearly budget. After examining the Town’s financial statements, I would suspect that many candidates might have to reconsider some of the promises being bandied about on the campaign trail. It is my sincere hope that the incoming Mayor and Board will complete some of the projects that we have expended funds and undertaken substantial work on, most notably, a new sidewalk program, the Green Park Landscape Design, and a Greenway along Gallows Branch, ending with a Pier near the boat landing. Although some may question these expenditures, all of those projects can be transformative and provide a great reason for people to visit and spend money in Leakesville. I know of no other small town in the area that has this kind of potential for a scenic greenway leading to a riverfront pier.
I leave office with the sincere belief and optimism that if Leakesville will continue toward renovating aged properties, and focus on providing amenities we can potentially become a low-cost retirement alternative and bedroom community for people escaping the hustle and bustle of the coastal areas. Again, Sue and I sincerely appreciate and thank you for allowing us to serve.