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Water Valley Main Street director spurs action

Mickey Howler of Water Valley Main Street knows how to rally the troops.

A self-described whiz at “aggravating” townsfolk and getting under their skin to enlist help putting projects in motion is the top Main Street director in Mississippi.

Mickey Howley took Mississippi Main Street’s Charles O. Beasley Scholarship Award home to Water Valley for his lead role bringing life back to the former railroad town 14 miles south of Oxford.

The New Orleans native moved to Water Valley with his wife, a University of Mississippi professor, 10 years ago. “It’s got a great wealth of terrific architecture,” he said of his adopted hometown.

Today, through restoration efforts and a welcoming climate for entrepreneurs, Water Valley is a mix of old and new businesses — with a fondness for art, as shown by the three galleries.

A group of women business owners was featured in a New York Times story earlier this year and a Chinese arts and culture magazine recently devoted a half dozen pages to telling Water Valley’s story.

Howley has been credited with helping to spur much of the town’s revival. “What keeps me going is I like to aggravate people,” he said. “I get up every morning to get under their skin and make things happen.”

Howley was one of 31 award winners at the June 21 Mississippi Main Street Annual Awards Meeting & Luncheon at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson.

“This year’s award winners reflect the commitment of many individuals and groups who champion what Main Street is all about — developing the heart of our communities, our historic downtowns, and enhancing the quality of life for everyone,” Bob Wilson, the organization’s executive director, said.

Operating under the credo of “Collaboration, Not Competition,” Mississippi Main Street has 51 active Main Street Communities as well as seven Downtown Networks and several Association members.

Main Street’s presented its annual awards in a range of categories, including design, organization and economic development.

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