DEKALB — Mike McGrevey is the executive director of the Kemper County Economic Development Authority (KCEDA). But different from the norm. To begin with, he lives in Newton County.
Any observer of economic development will tell you that may happen in a metropolitan area, but it’s unheard of in a small county situation. “They just won’t put up with it,” is the usual response.
J.L. White is DeKalb’s State Farm Insurance agent and was chairman of the KCEDA when McGrevey (pronounced “McGreevey”) was hired two years ago.
“People criticized us because Mike didn’t move up here and I was a little bit skeptical of it,” White recalled. “But after about six or eight months, I told him I thought it was an advantage because he saw things from the outside that he probably couldn’t have seen had he been living here.”
Something else is different about the slight, bespectacled, but always on the move McGrevey. In his high school and college days, he was Mississippi’s Flyweight Golden Gloves Champion.
“Boxing is like so many other things,” McGrevey said. “It’s not that you’re the toughest guy, but it’s a matter of a mindset. You have to be in shape, learn the skills, be disciplined and be prepared to react to your opponent’s moves.”
He’s using all of that — and more — for his task of improving the economy and quality of life in Kemper County where income and education are near the lowest level.
McGrevey’s been an achiever all of his life.
After graduation from his native Ocean Springs High School, he attended the University of Southern Mississippi on an Air Force ROTC scholarship — “I had always wanted to fly,” he said.
After a business degree, McGrevey’s 20-year Air Force career gave him wide experience including being a navigator on a B-52 and airborne training that included five jumps. And he got his master’s degree in business administration while serving in such diverse localities as Saudi Arabia, Korea, Germany, South America, Greenland and at the Pentagon.
That led to comptroller’s duties and being named the Air Force’s “Comptroller of the Year.” And he and his wife, Ada (they met while attending USM), were profiled on TV as “Living on the Edge” while stationed in South Korea.
When Colonel McGrevey retired from the Air Force two years ago, he and his family moved to Decatur — Ada’s hometown, where her father is a widely respected family physician and Ada is his R.N.
“I had applied for five different jobs and been accepted by all of them, but I answered this ad in The Meridian Star, and told Ada, ‘I think this will be a fun job.’ You can think that way when you’ve got a retirement check coming in.”
He sent in his r