BOONEVILLE — Applications are being taken here until July 1 for the executive director position with the Prentiss County Development Association (PCDA). It’s been vacant since the untimely death of Doug “Moose” Mansell in April. A search committee of five PCDA members was appointed to fill the vacancy.
As the only person to hold the top job since the association was formed in 1973, Mansell is closely identified with the county’s development, and members say replacing him is no easy task.
The organization’s charter president, former State Sen. Charles Walden, said, “Obviously, it will be hard to fill Doug’s shoes. The job molded around him, and we let him unfold in the position. He was not interested in leaving for any other job or place.”
Walden says the committee hopes to find an executive director who, like Mansell, will have a committed, personal interest in Prentiss County. He feels it may be hard to find that level of commitment.
“Because we wanted confidentiality, applications are going to a post office box, and we will not know who has applied until the committee gets together after July 1,” he said.
Another search committee member, John Haynes, said, “We are looking for someone who can sell Prentiss County and has the ability to communicate inside and outside the county. That person can not be isolated.” Haynes, the president of Farmers & Merchants Bank in Baldwyn, believes the new executive director must be aggressive and work on a regional basis.
Mansell, Haynes pointed out, was instrumental in establishing two industrial parks in the county, one in Booneville and one in Baldwyn, which is partially in Lee County. The late executive director had most recently been successful in bringing the new $3-million Flexible Foam plant to Baldwyn employing 60 people. He said Mansell was involved with the furniture industry on a national level.
Other committee members include Judy Ramey, Travis Childers and Ronny Rowland. The basic function of the PCDA’s executive director is to perform as the chief operating and administrative officer of the association.
The job description’s scope states that he/she should possess the courage, experience, vision, leadership skills, integrity and determination necessary to create dynamic opportunities for Prentiss County. Those are words that many here would say described Mansell who was 57 and one of the longest-serving economic development leaders in the state.
Shortly after Mansell’s death, Mississippi House of Representatives Speaker Billy McCoy told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal,
“There was absolutely no economic development or government project of any tangible nature that he wasn’t involved in with me, whether I was taking a lead role or a small part.”
Plans for the 1987 Four-Lane Highway program started in a meeting in Mansell’s office, McCoy said.
Marshall Dickerson, PCDA board of directors president, said Mansell did an outstanding job and left a strong example for those in the foundation to follow. “Doug was always excited about what he was doing and he was very knowledgeable,” he added.
Northeast Mississippi Community College public information director Barbara Shackelford, said, “Moose was a very valuable part of our community. We’re going to miss him for a lot of reasons.”
The whole county owes a debt of gratitude to Mansell, said PCDA search committee member and Prentiss County chancery clerk Travis Childers.
“Under his direction and guidance, we saw a lot of growth in our county,” he said.
Susan Lambert, Mansell’s executive assistant, worked with him for 18 years and said there’s no way to list all he did. “He did not take credit for what he did,” she said, “but stepped aside and let others have it.”
Mansell was a native of Tishomingo County and received a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Mississippi State University. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. His development career began with the Northeast Planning and Development District where he worked with industrial site locations.
When he came to Prentiss County as the PCDA’s first executive director, there were only six industries employing 900 people in textile and shoe production. Since that time, the industrial base has grown to 32 companies that employ more than 3,500 people.
The PCDA’s goal as pursued by Mansell was to solicit diversity of employment opportunities for the county’s workforce. He was working on a speech that was found on his desk that stated that he felt that goal has been reached as now the county has people working in the furniture, plastics, food processing, metal trade and automotive industries. Included among those industries are three Fortune 500 companies — Caterpillar, Parker Hannifin and Leggett & Platt. During this time, Site Selection magazine named Booneville one of the top 100 industrial sites in America.
Prentiss County, population 25,556, fared well in a comparison study with other Mississippi counties of similar size that was conducted by Mansell. As of December 2003, there were 3,510 manufacturing jobs and an unemployment rate of 4.5%. In 2002, the average weekly wage was $455 and in 64.9% of the population were high school graduates, he found. Mansell’s notes clearly indicated his enthusiasm and dedication to the county. “The Prentiss County Development Association will continue to solicit employment opportunities for our workforce,” he wrote.
“Industrial development within a community does not happen by accident. Only through the efforts of community leaders and strong financial support of any active development program can economic prosperity prevail.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.