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Judges have tall task, especially for newest program

One of the Mississippi Business Journal’s special awards programs had a different set of judges this year: you!

For the first time, MBJ unveiled its Best Places to Work in Mississippi program, which called employees to action to vote on behalf of their companies. Employees were asked to judge whether they believed their company was one of the state’s best places to work, and why.

The level of participation made a huge difference.
MBJ’s partner, Southern Research Group, analyzed the data, and the results will be revealed at the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO 2006 Best Places to Work in Mississippi Kickoff Breakfast Wednesday, January 18, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Independent panels

Every year, Robbie Bell, vice president of business development for MBJ and director of the EXPO, seeks six impartial judges to determine the other two annual awards programs: Top 40 Under 40, celebrating the state’s brightest, most community-minded business people under the age of 40, and Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women. Each program has a three-judge independent panel.

“I’m very selective when seeking judges for our awards programs,” said Bell. “We want people who will be thorough, impartial and insightful. There is a very impressive track record for them to follow, so I give this a lot of thought. For the Top 40, I mix men and women judges and try to have some of them from different parts of the state. I also think about age differences and how that brings a variety of perspectives to their considerations, so I ask judges from different age groups.”

Top 40 Under 40

For the Top 40 selection, the judges included Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) chief Webster Franklin, The Ramey Agency president and CEO Jack Garner and Tougaloo College president Beverly Hogan.

Franklin, a Greenwood native, worked in the White House for former President George Bush and served as the advance representative for former Vice President Dan Quayle and as executive assistant and personal aide to Marilyn Quayle. In 1994, he moved to Tunica as the first paid executive director of the Tunica County Chamber of Commerce with an eye on tourism development. In 1997, at the age of 28, he became the first executive director of the Tunica CVB. In 2001, he was elected president of the Mississippi Tourism Association and was named one of Mississippi’s Top 40 Under 40.

Garner was president and CEO of Union Planters Bank, N.A., in Jackson, when he was tapped to lead The Ramey Agency into the new millennium. The move marked his return to the advertising/marketing field after a 29-year banking career. Prior to that, Garner had served as a principal at the Grenada-based advertising and marketing agency Evans, Garner, Townes Inc.

In May 2002, the Tougaloo College Board of Trustees named Hogan the 13th president — the first female — of the historically black liberal arts college. A native of Crystal Springs, she earned a psychology degree from Tougaloo College and a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Jackson State University. She completed additional studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, University of Georgia and St. Mary College, including a doctorate degree in organizational management and leadership.

In 2004, she was named one of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women.

50 Leading Business Women

For the 50 Leading Business Women, Bell selected these judges: The United Way’s Aletha Burge, Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center CEO Jasmin Chapman, and The Everyday Gourmet founder Carol Daily.

“For the 50 Women, I strictly use female judges who are alums of the program,” said Bell. “Who better can evaluate the nominees and determine how they fit the profiles for Leading Business Women?”

Burge, a member of the 1998 class, serves as the director of community initiatives for The United Way of South Mississippi. She chairs a key committee of the Open Doors Homeless Coalition, which she led for nearly three years, and serves on the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park School of Social Work advisory board, the employer network for the Mississippi Model Youth Transition Innovation of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services and the vestry of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.

Chapman, a member of the 2004 class, is responsible for the planning, organizing and directing of all activities at the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, which was founded in 1970 and is one of the nation’s oldest health centers and the largest federally qualified health center in Mississippi. The Mississippi Primary Health Care Association selected Chapman as the 2004 Outstanding CEO of the Year.

Daily, founder of The Everyday Gourmet, a cooking school and gourmet retail store in Jackson, and a companion store, The Everyday Gardener, serves as president of the Viking Hospitality Group, a division of Viking Range Corporation in Greenwood, which includes the Alluvian Hotel, Giardina’s Restaurant, The Viking Cooking School and the new Alluvian Spa. When she’s not cooking, eating, writing or talking about food, she enjoys hiking, fishing, canoeing, hanging out in the Delta and living the life of a Sweet Potato Queen.

‘High level of business talent’

“Judging these programs is very time intensive and can be stressful,” said Bell. “The nominees we receive are all highly qualified people, so the selection process can be tedious. The comment I hear most frequently from judges after they have completed their scoring is their sense of awe and pride at the high level of business talent we have in Mississippi.

“In the Top 40 Under 40, they express comfort in knowing our state’s future will be in very competent hands of this up and coming group of leaders. In the women’s program, there is also an overwhelming sense of the ‘wow’ factor that these women bring to the business table. Remember also that community involvement plays a significant part in the scoring process for both programs. Our honorees have all proven to be dedicated to improving the quality of life in their communities.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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