Preservation team named Natchezians of the Year

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 17, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; Ron and Mimi Miller were thrilled to receive this year’s Natchezian of the Year Award Monday night &045; albeit, under false pretenses.

You see, up until last year’s Natchezian of the Year, Andrew Calvit, began listing their accomplishments, the husband-and-wife team thought they were at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting to honor someone else.

&uot;We thought we had come to watch Ralph Jennings get an award,&uot; Mimi Miller said, referring to the president of the Historic Natchez Foundation.

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&uot;I can’t believe it. This is just the biggest shock for both of us,&uot; Ron Miller said. &uot;We’re a team.&uot;

Ron Miller, who directs the Historic Natchez Foundation, and Mimi Miller, who serves as its director of preservation and education, have made historic preservation their life for years, Calvit said.

The Millers have worked to acquire and preserve many historic properties throughout Natchez. And in addition to heading the foundation, their careers have also included working for the Department of Archives and History.

&uot;We’re working to preserve the character of our town so we can use it in the future&uot; to, among other things, boost the economy through tourism, Ron Miller said.

The occasion marked the first time the chamber’s highest honor was given to two people.

Millicent Mayo, an educator of more than 33 years and who now directs public relations for the Natchez-Adams County School District, received the Athena Award, given each year to an outstanding professional woman.

&uot;Children are my heart,&uot; said Mayo, later admitting that &uot;I never dreamed this (award) would happen.&uot;

She also used her time at the podium to encourage all those present to do what they can to improve the welfare of children &uot;so we can truly have no child left behind.&uot;

McRae’s, which has been in Natchez for more than 20 years, was recognized as the chamber’s Business of the Year for, among other things, its community service record.

Each year, McRae’s helps dozens of local nonprofit raise money through its charity sales. This year the store gave the local Habitat for Humanity chapter $21,184 from just one of the sales, noted chamber President Fred Middleton.

&uot;This is wonderful honor,&uot; said Manager Mary Flach. &uot;We love being your hometown store.&uot;

And the first Educator of the Year Award, given by the chamber’s Education Committee, was won by Dr. William Penney of Alcorn State University’s master’s of business administration program.

With more than 33 years of teaching experience and more than 100 publications and numerous honors under his belt, &uot;we’re very fortunate to have him in the community,&uot; the chamber’s Cynthia Parker-Brumfield said of Penney.

In addition to thanking the chamber for his award, Penney also used the time to plug Alcorn’s MBA and nursing programs, which are both located in Natchez.

&uot;We invite you to come out and see your new MBA building,&uot; a $10 million structure now being built on Alcorn’s Natchez campus.

Also during the annual meeting, past chamber Chairman Sim Mosby officially passed the gavel to current Chairman Fred Middleton.

Hiring new President and CEO Laura Godfrey, moving to its new convention center office and championing such issues as tort reform were big milestones for the chamber in the last year and three months, Mosby said.

One good program the chamber is now spearheading, with $10,000 from United Mississippi Bank, is giving teachers recruiting to the Natchez-Adams School District signing bonuses, Middleton said.

The chamber also leads tours of community institutions and has made trips to Washington, D.C., and other places to improve economic development, Middleton noted.