/Mayor of Woodville, Keshia Stewart Ford A sit-down Q & A

Mayor of Woodville, Keshia Stewart Ford A sit-down Q & A

In Centreville, she also runs a small daycare business. Continue reading to learn why the part-time mayor treats it like a full-time job and how she hopes to change small towns. Mississippi Today: How does one go from being a child to take care of parents to suddenly becoming the mayor of a town? Mayor Keshia Ford: I am outspoken and outgoing. I’m a people person. I didn’t lose the energy I had while I was away when I returned. My environment has changed but I have not. My motto was “make it happen.” I noticed that many of my neighbors were unhappy with the current state of the town when I returned. Although it is small, you can accomplish a lot with a small community. The town is rich in history and culture. To make a difference, it takes everyone. … That’s why I chose to take the lead in beautification, personnel and technical issues. We are a small town so we don’t have the luxury of a Wal-Mart. However, we do have people who can start their own businesses. We have a lot local mom-and-pop shops. That’s how we get our benefits. Mississippi Today: You’ve been in office almost two years. Is that correct? What are your thoughts on what has been a success? Mayor Keshia Stewart-Ford: I would consider my success being able to collaborate with some county supervisors in order to improve roads. This is done by working with the county, and not ignoring them. My guys in the utility department are my supervisors. I help them with their leadership skills. I went with them to the site with them to check out their work and offer suggestions for improving things. For example, how to talk to their workers, or how to solve their problems. They felt more comfortable with me because I was more involved with them. Although it may seem small, some people will say, “Oh, there’s a mayor who cares. Who’s coming out here with me in the rain and mud?” I wasn’t actually doing the actual work but I was there to support them. They always came to me. Mississippi Today: You mentioned infrastructure issues, which I’m certain any elected leader in Mississippi would agree is a major issue for their jurisdiction. But what other issues do you think are important to Mississippi residents? Mayor Keshia Stewart Ford: Business. Entertainment. There should be something for the kids to do. Adults also need to have something to do. Most restaurants close by 5 o’clock. There isn’t much of a place to eat or a night spot after 5 p.m. I want to make sure they don’t have to go to their neighbor’s town or city for entertainment. More entertainment in the area, such as more festivals and concerts, or using our town square to host them. You get the idea. Although it’s easy, there are many factors that go into making this happen. Mississippi Today: I am trying to imagine the industries that I know in Wilkinson County …?. Mayor Keshia Stewart Ford says we basically have lumber and prison. MTC (Management and Training Corporation) is the operator of Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. Some people will call it Angola which is Louisiana. We don’t have much lumber so we don’t have much. This is where the majority of our people work: Angola or Fred Netterville Lumber. Mississippi Today: Where would you like Woodville to be in the next 5-10 years? Mayor Keshia Stewart Ford says: I would like to see more businesses and more entrepreneurs in this area. I want everyone to come together…Don’t play the race card. It’s both sides of every issue. I wish that the blacks and whites could come together. Unity is what I seek. Then, I will go with the companies. We must come together and let go of the past. The third would be beautification. This includes infrastructure such as roads and downtown areas. Mississippi Today: What else can I ask you? Mayor Keshia Steward Ford: The main thing is to realize that this is a part time job, and I treat it like a full-time position. It’s unusual for a town to treat a part-time mayor as a full time worker. I visit the office weekly, sometimes occasionally. As I mentioned, I work with the utilities guys. That’s not common. Talking with people is part of my leadership role. They call my cellphone. I am very open. This is not the norm. Someone who cares about their community.