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By STEVEN NALLEY
The West Point/Clay County Community Growth Alliance named 10 co-chairs to address five key issues it has identified for its community solutions initiative on Nov. 23.
The naming of the co-chairs is the latest step in a process which began Aug. 25, when WPCCCGA held a community forum allowing citizens to voice opinions about key issues and opportunities. The nearly 100 participants voted on the top four issues facing the community, along with the WPCCCGAâ€™s Growth Alliance Leadership Class.
Both the class and the participants came up with the same four top issues: education, job opportunities, a sense of unity and community and strong leadership. The leadership class added community appearance as a fifth focus area.
From there, Jackie Edwards, chairman of the WPCCCGA, chose the co-chairs. She said the fact that the leadership class and the participants chose the same four issues independent from each other highlighted the importance of those four issues for West Point and Clay County.
â€śI think that those are the things everybody in our community is concerned about, especially jobs and education, because we had the highest concentration of unemployment in the state of Mississippi in Clay County,â€ť Edwards said. â€śThose were the top two issues that everybody put on there when we did our form.â€ť
Each pair of co-chairs for each issue will form a task force, which will first gather information about current efforts to address each issue. Then, the task forces will identify local, regional and national experts to meet with them to provide information. Finally, the task forces will report on their findings at a second community forum in February or March.
The two co-chairs for education are Milton Sundbeck and Steve Montgomery. Sundbeck is president and CEO of Southern Ionics Inc., a chemical manufacturer based in West Point. Montgomery recently announced plans to retire from his position as the West Point School Districtâ€™s superintendent.
The co-chairs for job opportunities are Kenneth Oâ€™Neal and Perry Green. Oâ€™Neal is a farmer in the West Point area. Green is president of Renasant Bankâ€™s West Point Division.
The co-chairs for a sense of unity and community are Harmon A. â€śRobbieâ€ť Robinson and Nan Bennett. Robinson is retiring at the end of the year as Clay Countyâ€™s Chancery Clerk. Bennett is a member of West Pointâ€™s city planning commission.
The co-chairs for strong leadership are George Purnell and Eddie Longstreet. Purnell is president of the Boy Scouts of Americaâ€™s Pushmataha Area Council, which serves a total of ten counties in North Mississippi, including the Golden Triangle. Longstreet is pastor at St. Paul Baptist Church of West Point.
Finally, the co-chairs for community appearance are Kristin Stevens and Kathy Dyess. Stevens is the daughter of Sundbeck and a former writer for Daily Times Leader in West Point. Kathy Dyess is president of the West Point-Clay County Arts Council.
The WPCCCGA encourages volunteers to join. Those interested can call the WPCCCGA office at 662-494-5121 to volunteer.