SMITHVILLE — A Mississippi mayor who led recovery efforts after a tornado destroyed the entire town has earned a Phoenix Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Mayor Gregg Kennedy of Smithville received the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official. SBA wrote: “When they heard the tornado warning sirens around 2:30 p.m. on April 27, 2011, Kennedy and two city clerk’s took cover under a boardroom table at Town Hall. Ten seconds later, the building and the rest of Smithville was gone. In less than a minute, the tornado’s 205 mph winds had killed 16, destroyed 153 homes, four churches, the police headquarters and 14 of the 15 businesses in the one-square-mile area of Smithville. Kennedy took quick action, working with a doctor to set up a makeshift hospital, organizing search and rescue efforts, coordinating restoration of the town’s infrastructure, and running the emergency command center. Working for days without sleep, Kennedy became a symbol of optimism for Smithville residents and set the town on the road to rebirth. “
Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.