Leachville hosts county mayor's luncheon

Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke at the Mississippi County Mayor's luncheon held in Leachville.

Leachville Mayor Ralph Wells hosted the quarterly Mississippi County Mayor's luncheon on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The meeting was held in the board room at city hall and was catered by Bigg Butts.

Mississippi County Judge Randy Carney welcomed mayors and guests. Special guests included Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Senator David Burnett, and Representative Dave Wallace. Also present was Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook.

Other mayors present included Wayne Wagner, Manila; Sissie Winford Ross, Joiner; Dickie Kennemore, Osceola; Bo McCollum, Etowah; James Sanders, Blytheville; Danny Moody, Dell; and Jasper Jackson, Luxora.

Aaron Brassfield, director for the Community Thanksgiving Feeding, spoke to city leaders at the Mississippi County mayors luncheon held in Leachville.

Governor Hutchinson was in the area as part of a computer coding tour of high schools. He visited Manila High School before joining mayors and county officials at Leachville.

Gov. Hutchinson spoke about the focus on computer coding in high schools and the opportunities it will present.

He went on to say the statewide unemployment rate is down to 3.9 percent, saying 54,000 jobs have been created since he took office as governor.

He spoke about the balanced economy Arkansas has in agriculture, tourism, retail and manufacturing. He went on to say Arkansas will end the year with a $177 million surplus even with the $100 million tax cut.

He attributed the surplus due to the fact the focus on economy is growing and the good management and leadership of state officials.

Hutchinson talked briefly about the decision to sell the state's department of home health.

"It was losing money even though the private sector was not," Gov. Hutchinson said.

The decision was made to sell the home health department for $39 million. The employees who stayed with the state home health until it was sold received 10 percent of the net profits. The sale added $24 million to the surplus.

Gov. Hutchinson took several questions from the city leaders in reference to grants, equipment, and help with infrastructure needed by rural communities.

"There is always more applications than funds," Gov. Hutchinson said. "We will continue to look at it. The larger areas can have a full time staff to write grants. Maybe we can do a better job of alerting smaller towns about available grants."

He encouraged the mayors to contact his staff.

Leachville Clerk Ruth Ann Keith thanked Gov. Hutchinson for coming to Leachville. She said the East Arkansas Planning and Development is a great source to help small towns in pursuing grants.

Judge Carney also introduced the second speaker of the day, Aaron Brassfield who works at Nucor and is the director of the Community Thanksgiving Feeding, a non profit group providing and delivering home cooked Thanksgiving dinners throughout the county.

"Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year," Brassfield said. "It is a time to gather with family and friends and reflect on what we are thankful for. It is sad to think of the many people in the county who do not have a good Thanksgiving experience due to the loss of jobs or loss of loved ones."

Brassfield said a group of people decided to do something about the problem six years ago. They gave up their Thanksgiving at their own home and to prepare the traditional meals to give away.

Last year they served 1,300 plates throughout the county. He said a variety of organizations and people have come together to make this happen.

Meals on Wheels are not delivered on the holiday.

He encouraged the mayors and others from the different towns to look for volunteers who can pick up plates and deliver them back to their own communities.

"Talk to the city council and the churches and look for volunteers," he said. "There is no cost to your city or your churches."

He said if possible, they would like a number of needed plates so they can be prepared. He went on to say a former Blytheville volunteer comes back to help each year. Last year she made 45 pans of chicken and dressing.

"We have taken calls right up to lunch time," he said.

The funds go through His Ministries. Brassfield encouraged the city leaders to spread the word about the Thanksgiving feeding project, seek volunteers to deliver the meals in their own communities, and be a part of making sure everyone has a homemade Thanksgiving dinner.

"It is a way to show people we care," Brassfield said.

"We have 17 towns in our county and everyone has been served by this ministry," Judge Carney said.

Mayors and other guests made closing remarks sharing a few of the new developments in their towns.

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