Jefferson County: Calling all leaders

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2001

Walter Huston has an unusual perspective on the world’s final frontier.

“I say Jefferson County is the final frontier,” said the director of the Phoenix Project Community Development Foundation. “If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere.”

In a community plagued with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state — 15.2 percent, Huston believes the job is daunting, but doable.

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“Jefferson County is in the shape (it’s) in because we’ve sat back too often,” Huston recently told members of the newly formed Leadership Jefferson team.

Patterned after leadership and community development programs in other towns –&160;including Leadership Natchez — the Leadership Jefferson program is designed to identify, develop and tap into community leaders who can improve the quality of life in Jefferson County.

“We have to learn to work together to attack a problem — to solve a problem,” Huston said.

In the past, residents of Jefferson County have not always done what was needed to improve the community, so Leadership Jefferson team is a way of motivating progress in the community.

“A community can grow faster and stronger if you have everybody in that community working towards those same goals,” Huston said.

Only six people attended the first Leadership Jefferson meeting, but Huston said the low numbers do not discourage him.

“The most important thing is not the numbers,” he said. (We just want) “a group of committed people. That’s what we really want.”

A cross-section of people have joined the group including a basketball coach, a professor with Alcorn State University, an assistant district attorney and an employee of the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors.

“I work with 107 students a day plus I’m the girl’s basketball coach, so I feel like I need to be a leader in school and also in the community,” said Flora McKnight.

McKnight said she heard about the program on the radio and decided she needed to participate.

“This is something the community needs,” McKnight said. “It’s giving the citizens a chance to be a part of the community — giving them some input.”

At the team’s first meeting, Huston discussed different types of leadership and how they relate to Jefferson County.

“We need to understand what it is Jefferson County needs, and we have to be honest about the situation,” he said.&160;