By Daniel Brunty
The Webster Progress-Times
2013 was a year filled with joys and sorrows for Webster County and its residents. But with a new year comes new hopes and opportunities, as the county continues to strive for prosperity and relevance in these times.
The Progress-Times has compiled some of the most newsworthy stories of 2013, which are summarized here. They are not listed in any particular order:
The year 2013 began roughly for the county when on the early morning of Jan. 17, a fire gutted and destroyed most of the historic Webster County Courthouse. The courthouse, which has been the pride of the county and the village of Walthall, is nearly 100 years old.
After reviewing different options, the Webster County Board of Supervisors decided to relocate all courthouse offices to the Webster County Office Building in Eupora.
The road to recovery has been long in regard to the courthouse, with issues regarding the insurance settlement, as well as decisions regarding whether to renovate the burnt courthouse or to construct an entirely new facility.
The county is still in the waiting process regarding the insurance settlement, and the Board of Supervisors voted last month to hold a non-binding special referendum on the issue to repair and restore the existing burnt courthouse or build a new one.
Officer Crenshaw falls in line of duty
Webster County and its residents faced another tough challenge during the passing of Officer Keith Crenshaw. Crenshaw, an 18-year veteran officer with the Eupora Police Department, was struck and killed by fleeing suspects during a high-speed chase on Oct. 23. The pursuit resulted from an apparent attempted robbery at the CB&S Bank of Eupora and the robbery of a payday loan business in Grenada earlier that morning.
Eupora and its surrounding areas are still coping and trying to heal. Support has poured in from many local residents, as well as many from across the nation, for the “Officer Keith Crenshaw Memorial Fund,” which was started after the officer’s passing.
The fund has received donations from the American Police Hall of Fameand Museum, Police Benevolent Foundation, Mississippi Police Benevolent Association and CB&S Bank. His family received a posthumous award in his memory from the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum.
Local officials are preparing a resolution to ask the state Legislature to honor Crenshaw by naming a portion of U.S. 82 the “Keith Crenshaw Memorial Highway.”
Gone but never forgotten, Officer Crenshaw will forever be remembered with one word by the people he protected and served, and that word is “hero.”
Burchfield elected mayor; Board of Aldermen receive new look
In 2013, the political scene in the Eupora got a new look as former alderman-at-large Dan Burchfield was elected mayor after winning a three-man race on June 4. With Burchfield vacating his seat, the Eupora Board of Aldermen saw a complete change. Former aldermen Billy Brister and Hank Flowers did not seek re-election.
Replacing Burchfield as alderman-at-large was Golden Living Center administrator Gerald C. “Jerry” Gary. James Shaw Jr. became the new Ward 1 alderman, while Ward 2 saw a new alderman in Howard Rumore. Hugh Gibson became alderman of Ward 3, leaving the board attorney position vacant in the process (since filled by Jacqueline Meek). Robert Gibbs became Ward 4 alderman, having won the Democratic primary and running with no opposition in the general election.
Ansell-Hawkeye cancels layoffs
Last March, Ansell Hawkeye, one of the few industries left in Eupora, announced it was planning to lay off 85 workers at its glove plant, which the company said could close permanently if it didn’t obtain more contracts. With the company providing jobs for many Webster County residents, the economic picture for the county would look bleak.
Fortunately, the company announced in May the cancellation of the anticipated pending layoffs at the facility.
EWHS returns to Cumberland campus
East Webster High School and its students returned to their original campus in Cumberland on Oct. 28. East Webster was relocated to the Wood College campus in Mathiston just days after a tornado hit Cumberland on April 27, 2011, destroying the high school and gymnasium.
Ground was broken on the new school in May 2012, and was scheduled to be completed before the start of classes in August 2013. However, weather and construction delays would not allow the school to reopen by then..
School district awarded ‘A’ rating
The Webster County School District received an “A” rating when the Mississippi Department of Education released state accountability levels on Sept. 13. The WCSD is one of only 18 school districts in the state that are “A”-level districts and is ranked 17th in the state out of the 151 districts.
“It takes a lot of hard work and remaining focused on the curriculum to achieve such high marks,” Superintendent of Education Jack Treloar said. “I am very proud of each of our schools and we know that they are moving in the right direction.”
Education has always been a continuing priority in Webster County, and congratulations go out to each individual school (East Webster High, Eupora High, East Webster Elementary, and Eupora Elementary) for their hard work and success throughout the school year.
After numerous discussions between Webster, Choctaw and Montgomery County officials that started back in late 2012, an agreement between the three counties to establish an economic development district was reached and a resolution was signed last July 31.
The goals of the partnership are to recruit industrial development, support existing businesses, market the tri-county region and educate communities on the economic development process. At this time, the resolution is on hold at the Attorney General’s office for approval.
Courthouse named endangered
In November, Mississippi Heritage Trust announced the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi for 2013-14. On that list was the Webster County Courthouse.