Other cities take charge in changing the first impression

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 21, 2008

NATCHEZ — Mississippi towns Clarksdale and Magee don’t file constructive criticism away in the deep dark recesses of the mayor’s office.

Both towns invited Mississippi State University’s Community Action Team to review their towns, listing off first impressions and making suggestions.

And after the First Impressions team gave its final report, these two towns got to work.

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Click here for a pdf of the Natchez First Impressions report produced by Mississippi State University.


The Mississippi River town of Clarksdale took one of the most active responses to the First Impressions study yet.

The town created Clarksdale Revitalization Inc., an agency currently seeking its non-profit status.

Mac Crank was hired as director in October.

Crank is a one-man show right now, guided by a volunteer board, but he hopes to add staff soon.

His salary is paid in part by grants from the city, county and public utility and in part by donations of local businesses.

He’s seeking grants to keep things running after a three-year commitment from the government entities runs out.

The First Impressions team that reviewed Clarksdale suggested creating a group such as Crank’s.

And Clarksdale Revitalization Inc. has used the First Impressions study to guide its work so far.

In the agency’s three-month existence, it has led the removal of numerous unsightly wires supporting traffic signals in the downtown area, branded the town with a new slogan and defined cultural tourism as the primary economic engine, Crank said.

The next big project is to revitalize the area around the Sunflower River, which runs through town.

“It’s a project that has been sitting since 1984,” Crank said. “We have a big push to get it accomplished now.”

Crank also spends much of his time visiting with local groups to build consensus for community projects, he said.

“It’s amazing the level of cooperation (we’ve seen),” he said. “When everyone in town wants to do something, it just really makes a difference.”


The south central town of Magee has taken a different approach to its First Impressions study.

Mayor Jimmy Clyde is leading the charge for change and directing the town’s progress.

The First Impressions team presented its report to a group of city and county leaders, residents and business leaders in January.

After the team left, Clyde contacted some of the meeting’s participants to collect their thoughts.

He made some goals for town improvement and has spent the last year checking them off the list.

“We are working on a corridor (into town),” he said. “It involves planting trees and beautification.”

The challenge in Magee is bringing drivers from U.S. 49 into town, he said. And the town has been working to change the appearance of the area so drivers will be attracted to town and away from the highway.

“It’s hard to take criticism, but if it’s for the betterment of the community it’s good,” Clyde said. “But it’s not any good if you don’t do anything.”