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Business leaders take skills, resources into local communities

Many of Mississippi’s top executives take time from their busy schedules to give back to their communities, using their leadership skills to lead in a wide array of projects.

Last week, the Mississippi Business Journal caught up with a few of them to find out what they do and why they do it.

Part of the culture

Haley Fisackerly, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi, has always believed that leaders in companies can — and should — be leaders in the community. “The talent, skills and knowledge it takes to run a successful business can also be utilized to improve the community in which one lives,” he said. “Just as Entergy Mississippi has an obligation to serve its customers, I believe that I and all of our employees have an obligation to serve the communities in which we live and work as well.”

He has a long list of involvement that includes the arts, education, public safety and business.

He serves as a member of the board of trustees of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. “These young people are our future, and I consider it an honor to be a part of an institution that is working to encourage their spiritual growth, moral responsibility and academic excellence in a challenging learning environment,” he said.

Fisackerly also serves on the boards of the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions sales committee, the Mississippi Museum of Art and SafeCity Initiative, a grassroots organization working to make metro Jackson a safe place to live for every citizen. As a leader in the business community, he is chairman of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership.

“Setting an example of involvement for our employees here at the company and in our community starts with me,” he says. “It has and always will be a significant part of our corporate culture.”

Corporate support

As president of BancorpSouth Bank’s Hattiesburg Division, Ted J. Webb says he’s pleased to have the bank’s support for his community work. “The bank’s corporate culture encourages active participation in our markets,” he said. “We realize that progressive and growing communities strengthen our local economies.”

Webb enjoys being involved with the Boy Scouts, Partners for the Arts and his church. A big involvement at this time is serving as chairman of the Area Development Partnership (ADP), an organization that operates as the joint chamber of commerce and economic development agency for Forrest, Lamar and Perry counties and has more than 1,200 members.

“Although the position requires a substantial time commitment since it’s a four-year officer rotation, I think my involvement is valid because of the importance of our mission to the entire Pine Belt area,” he said. “The ADP’s purpose is to promote economic development, enable job creation and improve the quality of life in our region. It has a big mission and we are fortunate to have dozens of dedicated board members, volunteers and staff to lead the programs of the organization.”

Giving back: encouraged, expected

Ormella Cummings, Ph.D., is chief strategy officer for North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. Her many community activities include serving as education consultant for WAM’BA, an organization that introduces cultural and enrichment activities to youth in Itawamba County, board of directors of CREATE Foundation, Link Centre Board and the Blue Ribbon Committee, an advocate for globally competitive education.

“North Mississippi Medical Center is an integral part of the community we serve, therefore we are encouraged and expected to give back,” she said. “Also, it is my philosophical belief that only what we do for others will last.”

Cummings finds the time for this involvement because she wholeheartedly embraces the principles of Stephen Covey’s third habit, Put First Things First. “This practice helps me to quickly sift through and eliminate the unimportant, which allows me to focus on what I value most,” she said.

Partners for progress

John Chaszar, vice president/general manager of Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis, says leading Hancock County’s largest employer allows him to utilize the casino’s many resources in assisting local non-profit organizations that may not be able to afford doing some things on their own.

“We are not just a business in the community, but also a partner on the drive to better the community, as well,” he said. “Everyone benefits from a better quality of life.”

The New Jersey native has been with Hollywood Casino since 2001. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he had the choice to move or stay. He chose to stay and now considers himself at home in Hancock County.

He has held numerous positions with the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, including president and executive board member. He also works with the Hancock Medical Foundation, the Hancock County Main Street program, the Hancock Housing Resource Center and the Gulf Coast Business Council.

“Being involved in the chamber allows us to not only protect but enhance the business climate of Hancock County,” he said. “Not only do we owe it to our community, but we want to give back in support of those who have supported us throughout the year.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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