FLOWOOD • BRANDON • PELAHATCHIE • PUCKETT • FLORENCE • RICHLAND • PEARL • STAR • PISGAH• RESERVOIR
2 • JULY 2021
FROM OUR PUBLISHER
My parents have
a photo of my Uncle
Irwin holding me.
I was just a toddler so
I don’t remember him
well, but I’ve heard lots
of stories about him.
He and my Aunt Candy had only been married a year and
a half when he got orders for Vietnam. He was a flight pilot and
flew missions in his F-4 Phantom jet. Irwin was nicknamed “Ace”
because he was tops in his crew of pilots.
His was a young life, a “new” husband and had just been ordained
a deacon where he and Candy were members in Virginia Beach, VA.
Then the tragic news came. His plane exploded during a maneuver
of his final mission. He was given a memorial burial at sea.
We owe more than we can imagine to the military who have
given all to preserve our freedoms. I will forever be grateful for their
It would be most fitting to take time to remember the price of
our freedom this 4th of July. So many still carry the scars of the cost.
PUBLISHER & EDITOR
Mary Ann Kirby
IN THIS ISSUE
The Way We Were 6
Out of the Wreck I Rise 12
A Peaceful Mission 20
Top 40 Under 40 26
Hometown Family 56
On Military Service & Family Life 66
Neighborhood Eats 80
Shannon’s Home of Hope 84
Rankin’s Red Carpet 97
The Time Coin 114
...see you around town.
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Hometown RANKIN • 3
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4 • JULY 2021
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Hometown RANKIN • 5
Denise & David Ashley
David refused to start dating after his
divorce. His friends gave match-making
their very best efforts, but they concluded
they “could not find anyone he would agree
to date.” Shockingly, David found himself
very willing to extend a dinner invitation
to a lovely woman whom he met while
attending a divorce seminar at First
Denise often recalls the memory of
her sister trying to convince her to accept
David’s offer, but she harbored so much
pain and unbelief that God could redeem
her story. She had recently gone through
a discouraging, difficult divorce that left
her alone to raise her three sons.
There had been many conversations
between God and her regarding her future.
One, in particular, ended with, “If You
want me to have a husband, I’m going to
have to see him in neon lights.”
Denise continued to argue with her
sister, “I don’t want to date someone from
Yazoo City.” Her sister reasoned, “It’s not
like you’re going to marry him.”
Little did she know, she and David, who
had a son and daughter of his own, would
be married within the year and living in
Yazoo City, where Denise would be devoted
to a new job, the kids’ schools, their church,
and their community.
While the Ashleys enjoyed their new
life as a large, fun-loving, blended family,
the new arrangement came with its
challenges. Feeding all those hungry mouths
was at the top of the list. “With so many
children, and four of them being very active
boys, cooking was a constant at our house,”
says Denise. “It was normal for the boys to
walk out of a buffet restaurant after eating
multiple plate-fulls and ask what we were
eating at the next meal.”
After about nine years, the family of
seven added their eighth, and final, member,
a baby girl appropriately named Faith. Faith
entering the world served as a physical
reminder to the entire family that God is
certainly a God of second chances, and He
can turn any circumstance into a blessing.
When Faith was about three, she
adopted her own mantra as a result of
playing and competing with her much
older siblings: “Never give up.” Those
impactful words from an innocent child,
who knew nothing of the many hardships
her parents and siblings had experienced,
are words the entire family lives by to
6 • JULY 2021
is not just
“One of the favorite things that has
remained a constant over the years is
watching The Andy Griffith Show together.
When we first moved to Yazoo City, we
would watch it during the day when David
came home for lunch,” Denise recalls.
“We still watch it together in the evenings.”
The other habit the Ashleys formed
early on in their marriage was doing
devotionals together as a family at
dinnertime. “We found this little 365-day
devotional, and each day was composed
of a Bible passage, a key verse that
summarized the overall message, and
a story about a family to illustrate the
real-life application of that day’s lesson.
We would try to have a little fun by
substituting the kids’ names in the story.
They thought their names were really
in there and that God might be speaking
to them, and they listened closely because
the ‘winner’ for the evening was the person
who guessed the key verse.” David and
Denise committed to this ritual as
mealtime was the only time the whole
family was together.
Making their faith the foundation of
their home and family was of utmost
importance to the Ashleys, but they knew
they could not do life alone. “The church
was always our mainstay. We were so
blessed with a church where God placed
so many strong Christian mentors, staff,
and friends, who were exactly the people
we, and our children, needed at that time,”
Looking back on almost three decades
of marriage and their experiences raising
six children with over twenty years between
the two bookends, Denise and David are
amazed that five of them are now married
and they’re the proud grandparents of nine
The Ashleys have a few pieces of advice
for young couples, which include, “Keep
your family involved in church,” and
“Realize marriage is not just about you.”
However, perhaps the most important
lesson we can all learn from their story,
whether in faith, family, failure, or fear, lies
in those three, little words: “Never give up.”
David and Denise are currently living in
the Pisgah area, enjoying their grandchildren
and working toward continuing to share
what they have learned in their professional
and personal lives with as many people as
they can touch. David is currently a cyber
security policy analyst with Mississippi
Department of Information Technology
and Denise is a floor nurse at Baptist
Hospital in the oncology area.
Hometown RANKIN • 7
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Hometown RANKIN • 9
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10 • JULY 2021
Why did you decide to make Rankin County
I was born and raised in Rankin County. When I
was 17, I left to attend the United States Air Force
Academy. During my military time I lived in
numerous places, but Rankin County was always
Tell us about your family.
I am married to Sara Martin Morrow (42 years).
We have a son, David Morrow III (wife Amanda)
and they have both of our grandchildren, Drew (9)
and Will (2). We have a daughter Sara Ashley
Morrow. We all reside in Rankin County.
What is your favorite memory of living in
My favorite memory of living in Rankin County is
a current one, and that is spending as much time
with my grandsons, Drew and Will, as I can to
help them build memories and just have fun.
Where are your three favorite places to eat
in Rankin County?
My three favorite places to eat in Rankin County
would be Amerigo in Flowood, Fannin Mart in
Flowood, and Billy Burgers in Puckett.
What are some fun things to do in Rankin
County on the weekends?
Fun things I have done in Rankin County would
be the parks for baseball tournaments, taking
family to Jellystone Park in Pelahatchie, concerts in
the amphitheater, water activities on the Reservoir,
and Braves games.
Share some things you enjoy doing in your
Spare time is usually family related. Recently we
have been to many, many baseball tournaments
with Drew and his baseball travel team (Golden
Spikes-Hopkins). I also enjoy going to Starkville
for MSU football, basketball, and baseball games.
What are three things on your bucket list?
Bucket list: fishing trip to Alaska with grandkids;
travel to Greece and Italy with Sara; and a family
cruise with the whole gang.
Who is someone you admire and why?
The names on my most admired list seem to move
around some. My most enduring admired person
would be Ronald Reagan. His ability to communicate
and his conservative nature have always
appealed to me.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
10 years from now I see myself going to Mississippi
State to watch my grandson Drew play baseball at
MSU and watching my grandson Will doing
whatever in the world he wants to do.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory revolves around
election nights when the election totals would be
written on a big chalkboard in front of the old
courthouse in Brandon.
If you could give us one encouraging quote,
what would it be?
My favorite quote is also what I learned from
the military, “All limitations are self-imposed.”
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, United States
What is your favorite thing about
It is preserving our current way of life through
articles and pictures that relate directly to
Hometown RANKIN • 11
12 • JULY 2021
Aubrey Prigden finally hit the proverbial wall.
He stood before the judge in 1995 and heard the sentence:
two years in jail! It really came as no surprise. Aubrey had been
running from God most of his life, but God’s grace and seeking
had never stopped.
Even when Aubrey owned his own
bar, he was making a lucrative living, but
he began to drink - a lot. It was a DUI
that landed him before the judge. Aubrey
had injured two girls in the wreck, so
mayhem and aggravated assault were
added to his crime. “I was broken,” Aubrey
admitted, but didn’t realize that jail was
where God would mend his broken life.
“I was scared, desperate, and knew I
had hit rock bottom. It was in this state
that I gave my life to the Lord.”
The “wreck” of his life didn’t end with
this new life direction. While in jail he
lost his home, car and everything he
had ever considered his own.
Nevertheless, Aubrey began making
friends with his new family. He remembers
Ron Pennington, the sheriff, and
Bryan Bailey, the narcotics investigator,
treating him like a man and with respect.
He made more friends while being assigned
to work in the mechanic shop.
“None of the people in the jail environment
treated me like trash,” Aubrey said.
Not only was he making new friends,
but he was freed from all his drug and
alcohol addictions. He remembers a
Gideon coming to the jail to share his
testimony of how he, too, had been
incarcerated, but Jesus had broken his
life of crime.
By the time Aubrey was released in
1997, he knew that doing wrong was in
his past. Any future wrecks of life would
not be due to his own wrong decisions.
However, his new direction in life was
opposite his wife’s, so a divorce ended
their marriage. A former position as a
wholesale paper salesman was offered
to him but with a considerable drop in
pay. He moved in with his dad, and life
appeared to be looking up, especially
when he met Debbie.
In 2002, they were married, began
attending church together but “we
weren’t living it,” Aubrey admitted. After
they had tried it “their” way, they turned
to Jesus - not just as their Savior but as
Life turned positive. Both Aubrey and
Debbie were bringing home great wages
and growing spiritually. Aubrey was
invited to Copiah County jail to minister
and share his testimony. The experience
felt right. He was being drawn to
the jail ministry.
Soon the couple heard some news
from Rankin County about “Celebrate
Recovery” - a twelve-step program for
anyone struggling with hurt, pain, or
addiction. Aubrey sensed his calling!
In 2012, Bryan Bailey was the newly
elected sheriff of Rankin County, and
the jail was without a chaplain. Aubrey
called about an interview, and he and
Debbie met with Sheriff Bailey. Their old
friendships were renewed and both
Aubrey and Debbie were appointed jail
Bailey remembers that day with
enormous gratitude for what God has
done through the Prigdens’ ministry.
In trying to describe the impact the
Prigdens’ lives have meant to Rankin
County, he said, “You ask God for $5 and
He gives you $100.”
Kristi Shanks, administrative assistant
at the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office,
said, “We had situations with some of
the inmates that called for help that we
didn’t know how to give. When we met
with Aubrey and Debbie, they had the
same burden, but had the vision of how
to meet those needs. This husband and
wife team did amazing things for those
who couldn’t help themselves.”
Sheriff Bailey realized the Celebrate
Recovery program could bridge the
gap from the inmates being ministered
to inside the jail, to their walking out
Hometown RANKIN • 13
of jail with no support group. Pointe
Church near Star, Mississippi, opened
their doors and arms to all that needed
to enroll in the program that they began
offering at their church.
A meeting was held at Pointe Church
to share with churches about the program.
Twenty churches were represented
at the first meeting. Today over fifty
churches are participating. Hope Fellowship
Church offers free childcare for
the Monday night meetings at The
Pointe. Other churches like Pinelake send
mentors to the individual inmates who
need godly counsel and friendships.
Aubrey and Debbie began an extension
of Celebrate Recovery called “All
Things New, Inc.” Through this branch,
they oversee the Celebrate Recovery
program in the Rankin County jail and
churches. They set up mentors, group
counseling, and educational classes
for the inmates along with providing
supplies to inmates such as Bibles,
glasses, underwear. Inmates re-entering
society need money for childcare,
utilities, groceries, and clothes for
employment. Some inmates need bus
tickets to family out of town, and All
Things New, Inc. provides those.
Inmates earning trustee status
through points outlined by the jail have
opportunity to work in local businesses
while completing their sentences. Some
of these steps to earning trustee status
are completing the Celebrate Recovery
program, earning a GED, and being a
Under Aubrey’s supervision and belief
in teaching discipling, he carries trustees
to help victims of hurricanes and tornadoes.
Their annual toy drive, begun
three years ago through the Prigdens’
vision, collected toys for all the Rankin
County inmates’ children (500) plus
enough for inmates in Simpson and
Neshoba counties and other lower
income employees in the jail system.
In late November of 2019, Aubrey
would meet the most catastrophic
challenge of his life. Debbie was diagnosed
with COVID soon after Aubrey’s
own diagnosis. “It was brutal,” he said of
the virus. After a harsh case, Aubrey
recovered, but Debbie continued to
struggle. On December 1, she was admitted
to River Oaks Hospital and fought
through the month. Aubrey couldn’t
see her, but went to the hospital every
day to stand outside and pray. Friends,
sometimes sixty or more, would hold
prayer vigils in the parking lot. God
chose to give Debbie eternal healing
on New Year’s Eve of 2019.
Family and friends were dazed and
shocked. Hundreds attended her outside
funeral. So many remembered their
“Mama Bear” and how she loved them
and gave so sacrificially. She and Aubrey
had baptized 1,700 through their jail
ministry. From their own money they
bought, cooked, and fed students every
Monday night at the recovery classes at
Pointe Church. “Debbie had the gift of
discernment,” Shanks continued. “Within
a brief conversation with a stranger she
could detect their pain and end up
praying for them, and they’d both be
hugging each other and crying. She
Kristi held back tears when she remembered
this dear friend who was called
“Mother Recovery” by so many who had
felt her healing prayers and counsel.
“She had a supernatural way of making
everyone who knew and loved her think
they were her favorite. She was the glue
that held us together.”
Sheriff Bailey said, “Her death was
something we thought God wouldn’t
allow, because she did what it would
take ten other women to do. But it was
a wake-up call for all of her admirers to
step up and do our part - like Debbie
Aubrey listened quietly to the many
compliments paid to his beloved mate.
His peace, faith and strength were a
perceived support around his life and in
the room. He admitted that there was a
brief period after her death that he didn’t
think he could continue the programs.
Ministry without her seemed too big a
task. Never had he dreamed that the
“all things new” of their ministry would
mean leading it without Debbie. However,
God’s strength enabled him to
go forward with his life’s work - his
ministry, pastoring the Church of the
King in Morton, and part-time work in
the sheriff’s office.
All Things New, Inc. has grown to
the point that another staff member,
Scott Walters, was just added in June.
In Aubrey’s gentle, soft voice, he
shared that some days were still extremely
tough. “Just last Monday her
headstone came in. That really made it
reality. I had a small solar cross that
would go on the headstone, but I headed
home as I worked up a pity party for
myself. In just a minute that cross lit up!
I said, ‘I hear You now!’” he concluded.
Aubrey will continue to point the
hurting, the addicts, the jailed and the
homeless to Jesus and walk with them
until they, too, rise out of life’s wreck.
14 • JULY 2021
All Things New, Inc. is a charitable, nonprofit organization
and is funded by compassionate contributors and
physically supported by volunteers.
Contact them at P.O. Box 2183, Brandon, MS 39043
Hometown RANKIN • 15
16 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 17
18 • JULY 2021
May 31 - Rankin County Courthouse
Hometown RANKIN • 19
20 • JULY 2021
A Peaceful Mission
Jim Lewis’s mom had heard
the expression “cuss like a
sailor” enough to know she
didn’t want her son to have
anything to do with the Navy.
That’s why Jim had to do a lot of convincing
before his parents would sign for his
volunteering for the Navy at age seventeen.
He explained to his parents that if he
didn’t volunteer for the service branch
he wanted, he’d be drafted into the Army.
“I want to be a sailor,” he urged his parents,
and he promised his mother he would never
use profanity. Jim kept that promise, and
for the next twenty-two years lived in ten
different states plus doing a tour in France
- serving his nation as a model sailor.
Lewis retired as chief
electrician and, on his last
tour, taught electrical engineering at Great
Lakes, Illinois, in the naval school. The
family moved from there to Pensacola,
Florida, where he and wife Dot planned to
retire. During their three years there, Lewis
taught in the Naval Junior ROTC program
at Woodham High School.
A visit to Brookhaven to see his parents
would turn out to be their next home for
thirty years. St. Regis Paper Mill had just
been built and during the visit, Lewis went
to see the new operation. When Lewis met
the electrical superintendent, he asked to
see Lewis’s application. “I’m not applying
for a job; I’m just here to look at the new
business,” Lewis answered.
The superintendent handed Lewis an
application and asked him to fill it out.
By the time the Lewis family had gotten
back to Pensacola, St. Regis had offered
him a job with a significant pay increase.
Brookhaven was now home.
After retiring from
the paper mill,
as a consultant at
with students seeking
possible careers with
St. Regis. Also, Lewis didn’t just teach
others, he continued to learn throughout
his active life, earning his pilot’s license and
instructor’s license in 1975.
Sitting in the presence of a true patriot,
along with his wife of almost seventy-three
years and their middle daughter, Laura Oster,
stories of life in the military were a natural
Imagine a teenager of fourteen years
moving with his parents from Jackson,
Mississippi, to a shipyard near Seattle,
Washington, for his dad to find work. At
age fifteen, Lewis also began working in
the shipyard during the day and worked
on high school classes at night. When
Lewis turned seventeen, World War II
had just ended. But Lewis volunteered
for the Navy.
When this young sailor got a thirty-day
leave, he visited his first cousin in Jackson
who was married to the sister of Dot
Yelverton. Dot, from Bay Springs, Mississippi,
happened to be living with her sister.
Dot and Jim met and spent the majority of
his leave as steady dates. Dot was “fifteen
and a half.” “I was young, but back then we
grew up faster. The times were harder,” Dot
said in describing their youthful romance.
“He was a gentleman - just what I wanted
in a husband.”
Hometown RANKIN • 21
22 • JULY 2021
“It was Mama and her
fl y swatter that taught us
how to be ladylike
and act nice.”
Lewis recalled, “She was really pretty,
sweet, and seemed attracted to me. We both
knew we had found our mate.” On October 15,
1948, Dot and Jim were married at Southside
Baptist Church parsonage in Jackson
'by the preacher S.W. Valentine. She was
almost nineteen and Jim was twenty-one.
Over his military career, Lewis served on
three aircraft carriers, three destroyers, an
icebreaker, cruiser, transporter, and seagoing
tugboats. Once he was on board a small
boat in the China Sea with two other sailors.
Their boat hit a Japanese planted mine and
splintered. The three, in life jackets, were
unharmed but thrown into the sea in
56-degree water. They latched themselves
together and began praying and treading
water. Their hands were too numb to shoot
the flares, but a U.S. freight ship spotted them
and rescued all three who were suffering from
hypothermia. It was one of God’s miracles
because it was just minutes before night fell
which would have left them in total darkness.
Behind every great patriot is a great spouse,
and Dot Lewis needs a salute for her military
sacrifices as a wife and mother of three
daughters. “We moved every eighteen months
to two years, but I knew Jim belonged to the
Navy, and I belonged to Jim. I always tried
to make a home wherever we were stationed.
My biggest concern was for our three
daughters having to always leave friends and
make new adjustments.”
With her husband at home only ninety-two
days out of the year, Dot was the necessary
disciplinarian. Daughter Laura said, “It was
Mama and her fly swatter that taught us how
to be ladylike and
act nice.” She recalled only one instance of
her daddy spanking her and his apologizing
before she went to bed.
Dot and the daughters have fond memories
of being a big part of their military husband
and father’s duties. When the family was
stationed on the Riviera in France, Dot and the
girls would travel to the different ports by car
to meet up with Lewis when his ship docked.
When Lewis would be gone on six-week
assignments, he would send reel to reel tapes
to his girls with messages and special songs
dedicated to each of the four. Laura still
remembers her “theme” song - “Yellow Rose
of Texas.” Dot’s was “Unchained Melody.”
“That was our song,” Dot shared as she patted
her soulmate’s knee.
The stamina and courage of these military
heroes is noteworthy. The Lewis’s first home
was in Boston, Massachusetts. Dot left Bay
Springs, Mississippi, to join her new husband by
traveling on the Southerner train from Jackson
to Grand Central Station in New York. She
changed trains for Boston to meet Jim there.
It was quite a feat for a teenager who
had never been out of Mississippi.
Dot’s landlady was a kind Jewish
woman “who probably kept me from
starving when Jim had to leave for three
weeks in December for a rescue mission
in Iceland.” Jim’s ship broke up ice for an
oil tanker to fuel the weather station there.
For the past twenty-one years the
retired military couple has lived in Brandon,
next door to daughter Laura and husband
Daryl Oster. Eldest daughter Dawn and
husband Art Ruggles live in Fairhope,
Alabama. Judy, the youngest, lives with
husband Harry Smith in West Monroe,
Louisiana. Dot and Jim enjoy their five
grands, ten great grands and one great
Health difficulties have slowed Jim
physically, but his brain is sharp with an
amazing recall of dates and places. Dot is his
smiling, joyful, able assistant who believes
that age is just a number and hers remains
unlisted! They are certain that finding their
homes close to good churches and schools
has been a key in God’s blessing them.
And their commitment to God and each
other is indisputable.
The seasoned sailor of ninety-four
years is still military through and through.
“It concerns me that people confuse the
military with war. We are here to keep peace,
if done right,” Lewis says with conviction
Speaking fondly of her dad’s service in the
military, Laura added, “Oh, he’s a flag-waver,
Hometown RANKIN • 23
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24 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 25
BEST OF THE BEST
Rankin’s Best of the Best Top 40 Under 40 recognizes the very best young professionals
that Rankin County has to offer. They are industry disruptors and innovators of all types.
They are the best in their fields and will be instrumental in leading us through the new
wave of technology and ways of doing business that have resulted from changes
in the workplace over the last few months.
Criteria for consideration required that candidates must be under the
age of 40 at the time of selection and work in Rankin County. Nominations
were solicited from the public–with the top 40 being selected by committee.
Winners will be celebrated with an awards luncheon on July 21st.
26 • JULY 2020
Hometown RANKIN • 27
Blake Norris Ainsworth
Brady B. Anderson
Brian N. Baucom
Blake Ainsworth is a graduate of Mississippi
State and the Ole Miss banking school, and
currently serves as a lender and vice-president
of Community Bank in Brandon. In his spare
time, Blake enjoys training his dogs, hunting,
and playing golf. Blake is an active board
member of the Rankin County Chamber of
Commerce and serves as the president of the
Rankin County Kiwanis Club.
“Being promoted to vice-president at the
age of 25 is an accomplishment that I’m very
proud of. While being in a leadership role at a
very young age was a great challenge, I sought
to overcome this by working hard and earning
respect from those older than me. My
performance and work ethic proved me
capable of this role at Community Bank.
One piece of business advice that has
impacted my career is to ‘work hard and let the
numbers and success speak for itself.’ This has
allowed me to not only reach my goals, but
even higher goals than were even expected.”
Rainer Law Firm, PLLC,
The McCaughan Company Real
Estate, Southern Raised Children’s
Boutique, The Wilander
Brady Anderson of Brandon works simultaneously
as a paralegal, real estate broker
salesperson, and small business co-owner.
Between two kids under three, multiple jobs,
and co-owning two stores, he doesn’t have
much free time – but when he does, Brady
enjoys woodworking and vacations at the
beach! He also serves as the treasurer/board
director for the Brandon Business Association,
as well as the president of the Cannon Ridge
“Buying a business and opening a new
business during the middle of a pandemic may
not appeal to most, but it’s an exciting adventure
to me! My family and friends definitely thought
I had lost my mind, but I told them it would all
be fine. There will always be challenges, but
I’m proud of my drive to power through these
obstacles, and I couldn’t be more proud of
‘Busyness or time shouldn’t stop you from
reaching your dreams. If you don’t do it now,
you’ll never do it!’ I took this advice to heart
with the new business ventures of the past
year. These stores have been a dream of mine
for many years, and when we finally realized
that our lives were never going to slow down,
we dove in head first!”
Jackson Fire Department
Brian Baucom of Florence is both a
registered nurse with Merit Health and a
firefighter/paramedic with the Jackson Fire
Department. Brian is a member of the MS
Nurses’ Association, the MS Firefighter’s
Association, the International Association of
Firefighters, and Hickory Ridge Baptist Church.
The majority of Brian’s free time is spent with his
wife and kids, reading books, and exercising
as a sport.
“The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome
was to trust myself and my decisions. When I
was first put into leadership positions, I had
doubts that I was making the correct choices.
I’ve overcome this by knowing that I can trust
God, and that I don’t always have to make
perfect decisions – I can only make the best
one for that moment. Even though I’ve had
many successes in my career, my proudest
achievements aren’t measured by accolades.
My proudest moments occur when someone
is in need of help and I’m able to bring comfort
and safety to them.
The best advice I’ve been given is, ‘People
don’t care about how much you know until
they know how much you care.’ This has had
a profound impact on how I treat people,
28 • JULY 2021
top 40 under 40
Amanda Nixon Brewer
The Glossary Salon,
The Tracy Branch Agency
Tracy Branch is the co-owner of The Glossary
Salon in her hometown of Florence. She is also
a hair stylist and makeup artist with The Tracy
Branch Agency, which she owns and operates.
Tracy is a graduate of Richland High School,
Belhaven College, and the Academy of Hair.
She enjoys creating, thrifting, traveling,
reading, and going to concerts, when time
allows. Tracy is a proud member and volunteer
for AllforGOOD.org, and is a board member of
the Wedding Krewe in New Orleans.
“Coming back to my own hometown to open
a salon with my business partner, Kerri Welch,
has been an absolute honor and something
I’m so proud of when I look back at my career
so far. I’ve also loved getting to travel the country
and do what I love. Our motto is: ‘Success
unshared, is failure.’ – by John Paul Dejoria.
The pandemic/quarantine/salon shut-downs
last year were, of course, scary for all business
owners. We did all we could to stay connected
with our team and clients by creating ways to
keep revenue flowing. My business mentor
once told me, ‘Whatever you decide, make the
decision, and don’t look back. Go forward and
give 100% effort. Don’t look back. Do it.’”
Pearl Public School District
Amanda Brewer graduated from Mississippi
College in 2008 and now works with the Pearl
Public School District as the public relations
specialist. She enjoys spending time with her
husband and two daughters, singing, baking,
and serving on the Rankin County Chamber
Education Committee. Amanda is also a member
of the Mississippi and National School Public
Relations Associations, and was a member of
the Rankin County Chamber Leadership Rankin
Class of 2020.
“The greatest challenge I have faced in my
job has been to establish an effective system
of communication between our school district
and families, businesses, and community leaders
of the City of Pearl. We’re living in a world with
information at our fingertips. In order to inform,
educate, and connect our stakeholders to our
district, I expanded our reach through social
media. Increasing our presence and highlighting
our successes not only increased our online
traffic, it also helped create a stronger sense of
pride in our school throughout the community.
The best piece of business advice I’ve
received is to not be afraid to ask questions.
Being inquisitive helps me gain insight, perform
to the best of my ability, and produce work in
which I am confident. Asking questions also
provides opportunities to learn and grow. I am
surrounded by some incredible people from all
walks of life – they hold insight and knowledge
and I want to soak it up!”
Mississippi Public Utilities Staff
Kyle Brown received his Master of Science
in Economic Development from the University
of Southern Mississippi and now serves as
deputy director on the Mississippi Public Utilities
staff. In years past, Kyle has served as the
president, secretary, treasurer, and architectural
review board director for his homeowner’s
association. He enjoys problem solving and
reading, and has appreciated the opportunities
he’s been given to speak to local Rotary and
“There are several things I’ve achieved over
the course of my career that bring me a sense
of accomplishment. First of all, seeing folks
fishing and kayaking in Crossgates Lake today
makes me smile. Watching people attend any
amphitheater show is another one - I knew it
would be a catalyst for generational change in
Brandon. Lastly, helping bring Starbucks to
Brandon and then later going to work for the
former CEO of Starbucks are both things
I consider a great career achievement.
‘If you do not set a bar of expectation,
then you will never miss it.’ This has always
reminded me to set expectations that are
achievable and when you deliver even higher
or better results than expected, people are
more excited and pleased. Surprising people
is always fun!”
Hometown RANKIN • 29
Katherine Barkett Byrd
Lauren Smithart Coley
American Heart Association
Katherine Byrd of Flowood is the current
Go Red of Women director with the American
Heart Association. Katherine is a current active
member and provisional advisor for the Junior
League of Jackson, and served as the co-chair
for Rankin County’s Distinguished Young
Women program for seven years. Singing,
exercising, playing tennis, shopping, and
spending time with friends and family are all
things Katherine holds dear.
“I am very proud of my current role at the
American Heart Association, where I have the
honor of working with so many wonderful
community leaders to raise awareness for
heart disease in women. Not only do I get to
work with a great group of people, I have a job
that is making a difference right here in our
community and that makes me extremely
proud to be afforded this opportunity!
The best piece of business advice I’ve ever
received is to make as many connections as
possible. I truly believe the more people you
meet throughout your life and in your professional
career, the more opportunities will be
presented to you. Once you prove your work
ethic and your character as an individual, then
people will recognize that and want you to be
a part of their professional network as well.”
Emily Chance of Richland is the Wellness-
Plus manager with BankPlus and is very
involved in a number of professional and civic
organizations in her community. She loves
spending time with her family, watching her
two boys play ball, running, and CrossFit.
“I am a nurse by trade and have a passion
for helping people. While it’s not traditional
nursing, my goal in this job is to design our
wellness program to impact the health of
others, and it is so rewarding when I hear
from someone that the program did just that.
Whether it be a colleague changing their
lifestyle/behavior or a disease being caught
early from the wellness program, I feel a great
sense of accomplishment from my job, and it
truly gives meaning to what I do.
Trust God has a plan and purpose for your
life—and hard work pays off. The combination
of these two thought processes has brought
me where I am today. Early in my education,
God closed a door but opened an unexpected
one wide, which launched my wellness career.
I had to trust that God put me exactly where
He wanted me to be. Since then, I strive to
work hard in my job each day, and that has
helped me to continue to grow and thrive.”
Lauren Coley is a native of Rankin County,
graduating from Pearl High School before
going on to receive her Bachelor of English
Licensure from The University of Southern
Mississippi, where she also danced with the
Dixie Darlings. While she still enjoys singing
and dance, Lauren also enjoys spending time
with her two boys, watching TV with her
husband, and working out.
“The career achievement that makes me
most proud is when Flawless Boutique won
Best Women’s Boutique in Rankin County for
2020. It means so much that people believe
in our boutique and take time out of their day
to nominate and vote for us.
The best business advice I’ve ever received
is to invest. I use this advice daily to invest in
my co-owner, my brand, my employees, my
customers, and myself. I stay focused on being
intentional that my business represents who I
am as a person. I treat my employees like family,
and connect with our customers in a way that
makes them lifelong friends. During the first
couple of months of the pandemic, Flawless
provided free shipping and even made
hundreds of local home deliveries straight to
our customers’ doorsteps. This was a challenging
experience, but through it I learned how to
adapt to an ever-changing retail environment,
all the while investing in and keeping personal
relationships with our clients.”
30 • JULY 2021
top 40 under 40
Michael Drew Crenshaw
April Shelby Crowell
Brandon Middle School
Drew Crenshaw is the choir director at
Brandon Middle School where he has proudly
served since 2017. Drew received both his
bachelor’s and master’s in music education
from Mississippi State University. He is a member
of both the National Association of Music
Education and the Mississippi Music Educators
“I am very proud of my choirs at Brandon
and am constantly surprised by the amount of
talent at this school. The students have inspired
me as much as anyone in my life. I never
believed that middle schoolers could do as
much as mine can. Having my students perform
beyond expectations is what I am most proud of.
Over the years, I have had several educators
who have told me to not underestimate what
your students can do, that students will meet
whatever bar you set for them. When I started
at Brandon, I had no idea how true that really
was. I learned very quickly that students can
and will rise to the occasion if you give them
A. Shelby Pottery
April Crowell is a graduate of Mississippi State
University and an artist and owner of her own
ceramics business, A. Shelby Pottery. April is a
member of FBS Brandon, where she is a
college life group leader and women’s ministry
team member. She is also a Gather Jackson
participant, Pottery Makers of MS member,
and Small Business Development Center
participant. In her spare time, April enjoys
kayaking with her husband, JR.
“My pottery business was a side-gig and
my studio was at home in my garage for years,
but I always dreamed of having a space of my
own. I thought that dream was so far away.
However, after only three months of doing
pottery full-time, I outgrew my garage and
moved into a bigger studio space that was
solely for pottery. Having that space that is
separate from everything else, literally and
figuratively, really helped me focus and allowed
my business to grow even more. It was an
investment that was a big decision to make,
but it was worth it and I’ve never looked back!
As a creative person, you’ve got to stick to
your passion. Continue to make art that you
enjoy and feel good about. Otherwise, this
business you’ve chosen to create is no longer
yours. Also, others can sense if you’re
passionate or not!”
Jane Thomas Salon
Jennifer Davis is a hair stylist and owner of
the new Jane Thomas Salon in Brandon.
When not at the salon, Jennifer spends the
majority of her time with her family, taking her
children to cheer, baseball, and soccer
“Right as I was getting started in hair and
starting to see success, I had a son. He had
major complications and we didn’t think he
was going to make it. During that time I still
managed to take time to work and decided to
not give up on my career. Being able to help
others during my own struggle healed my soul.
It was the absolute hardest time of my life but
I trusted that God would see us through and
I didn’t look back. For that I am so proud.
Always treat others how you want to be
treated. I definitely feel that this is especially
important to remember when you’re in a
leadership role and in the service industry.
Something else that I’ve learned from watching
people over time is to always stay humble.
Humility will take you way farther in life than
any dollar or title could. I think implementing
these concepts into my business is why I’m
where I’m at today, because people don’t just
look at your talent but your character.”
Hometown RANKIN • 31
Zachary Ford Evans
Shane Davis Fletcher
Zach Evans, a Mississippi College graduate
with a degree in sports management, is the
director of stadium operations for the Mississippi
Braves. Zach enjoys spending time with his
wife and son, as well as hunting deer, duck,
turkey, and alligator. He also spends his spare
time watching baseball and football, as well as
continually competing for yard of the month in
his neighborhood! Zach is an active member
of the Pearl Kiwanis Club and the American
“COVID has been detrimental to everyone,
especially to those of us in the hospitality and
entertainment business. Adapting to a world of
social distancing and creating new events for
our fans to enjoy was quite the challenge.
Clear communication and a ton of trial and
error went into play, and we learned more and
more each day that we are so much more than
a baseball stadium.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received
is to work hard, all day, every day, give 110%,
and then do it again tomorrow. To me, it is so
important to treat everyone with grace and
respect, and to never become too good to
take care of the fundamentals.”
Farm Bureau –
Shane Fletcher Agency
Shane Fletcher graduated from Pearl High
School in 2001 and went on to graduate from
Delta State University in 2006. He enjoys the
outdoors, golf, watching his son play baseball
and soccer, spending time with his wife Emily,
and is an active member of NAIFA and the
Pearl Chamber of Commerce. Shane not only
serves as an insurance agent with Farm Bureau,
but also as assistant soccer coach at Pearl High
School and a reserve police officer at the Pearl
“Restarting my career at the age of 30 in the
insurance agency presented many challenges,
but I dedicated my time and energy to learning
the business and building relationships. When
I was hired in 2014, I won New Agent of the
Year, which is the highest award Farm Bureau
offers. I finished first in production among
3,600+ agents in 13 states, and I was very
proud of this achievement.
My grandfather always said ‘doing right is
always the right thing.’ I try and apply this to
not only my personal life, but also my business.
I always want my clients to know that I put them
first in every business decision I make.”
Thrash Commercial Contractors, Inc.
Thomas Flickner serves as controller with
Thrash Commercial Contractors and is a
graduate of Mississippi State University. In his
spare time, Thomas enjoys spending quality
time with family and close friends, as well as
being in the great outdoors. Thomas is a proud
member of Shiloh United Methodist Church,
where he serves on the Missions and Shiloh
Campground Committees. He is also a
representative member of the Construction
Financial Management Association.
“Looking back on my career thus far, I am
most proud of my ability to purchase, develop,
and invest in properties at a young age. The
biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is a
lack of time, yet throughout my career I have
learned how valuable one’s time truly is. I have
learned the difference between being present
in the moment and simply one’s presence. This
has helped me slow down and celebrate the
small accomplishments, not only the major
The best advice that I have carried over
into my career is to push yourself – set an
unachievable goal, focus yourself, then surpass
yourself. Everyone’s biggest competitor is
oneself. Always push yourself and you will be
surprised what you will accomplish.”
32 • JULY 2021
top 40 under 40
Erin Russell Green
First Baptist Church Richland
Kenneth Gray serves at First Baptist Church
Richland as minister of students and teaches
high school Bible at Discovery Christian School
in Florence. After graduating from Mississippi
College, Kenneth went on to obtain his
master’s from New Orleans Baptist Theological
Seminary. In his free time, Kenneth enjoys
watching sports, playing guitar, spending time
outside, and above all he enjoys spending
quality time with family and friends.
“It is very common for those who pursue
youth ministry to live very transient lives,
moving quickly from one place in the ministry
to another. Although the challenges of local
church ministry can be daunting, through the
sustenance of the Lord, the support of my wife,
and the love of our congregation, I have been
able to faithfully stay at FBC Richland for almost
eight years. It has been unbelievably rewarding
to have been able to serve in one place for so
long. I cherish being able to see former youth
who I had the privilege to invest in serving their
local church, communities, and families well!
‘Ministry isn’t everything – Jesus is.’ – Ray
Ortlund. This quote, like many others, has
served as a guiding force to remind me to
keep Jesus as my focus and allow ministry to
overflow from my relationship with Jesus.
Philippians 3:8, ‘Indeed, I count everything as
loss because of the surpassing worth of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.’”
formerly Stribling Equipment
Michael Gray received his bachelor’s
degree in business administration from
Mississippi College. He has recently moved
from his position as credit manager with
Stribling Equipment to director of credit with
Irby Electric. Michael’s hobbies include shooting
sports, hunting, being a soccer dad, cheering
on Mississippi State, and spending time with
“COVID has been the biggest challenge
thus far in my career. The historical methods
and analytics fall short of being able to predict
circumstances in such an unprecedented time.
Businesses have struggled with cash flow and
revolving the credit accounts. We’ve had to
create different and new financial products to
assist customers through this troubled time,
but I am proud of our team and how we have
As a manager, my biggest achievements
have been in my teams of people. I’ve had
many former team members to be promoted
into upper management and higher positions
within our own organization at the time and into
other companies. This is rewarding for me not
only on a professional level, but a personal
one as well.
I was taught this many years ago and have
used it an untold amount of times. The advice
was that ‘Management is doing things right.
Leadership is doing the RIGHT things!’”
Grants Ferry Family Dentistry,
Green Wellness Spa
Erin Green is the owner and serves as a
dentist at Grants Ferry Family Dentistry in
Brandon and is the owner of Green Wellness
Spa. Erin is a member of the American and
Mississippi Dental Associations, American
Academy of Facial Esthetics, Rankin County
Chamber of Commerce, and Pinelake Church.
Raising kids, writing, interior design, exercise,
and reading are a few things Erin enjoys doing,
when time allows.
“Through support of close friends and family
and a lot of prayer, I’ve opened a dental
practice and Mississippi’s first dental spa while
simultaneously having four children and
supporting my husband’s career goals – this,
along with being the first doctor in my family,
is what I consider the biggest challenge I’ve
overcome in my career. I’m proud of the recent
addition of GWS to GFFD during 2020, a time
where many thought I was crazy for opening
a new business. It was a long-term dream that
allowed me to believe that anything is possible
if you believe in it.
The best piece of business advice I’ve ever
received is to hire the best people you can
afford and prioritize their happiness. I have an
amazing team and each individual brings
unique value and perspective that makes for
a successful and fun business environment.”
Hometown RANKIN • 33
Jordan Hall is a choreographer and owner
of JAM Athletics, an all-star cheer, tumbling,
and dance training center in Flowood.
Originally from Panama City, Florida, Jordan is
now on the board of directors at GRIT Training
and has been a member with the USASF for
over ten years.
“Due to COVID-19, our doors were closed
during our national season, and of course
this cut our season short unexpectedly. Not
knowing what was going to happen financially
and mentally for our athletes, my staff and I
created a program called CORONA CAUTION!
This was a virtual program that kept the
athletes engaged from any location and gave
them daily challenges to complete. Due to the
success from this program, we were able to
fully fund our payroll for our staff and keep
things going at JAM! I’m very proud of all those
involved in that process at a very difficult time.
As a young kid I couldn’t afford all-star
cheerleading, so my cheer coach Robert
DelTorro told me I needed to learn and
understand the value of a dollar! With that
I worked in the gym and learned its daily
operations. To this day, I still use his advice
and even moreso now that I have my own
cheer gym. I strive to be the best in the
business and pay it forward any chance I can!”
Wendy Hamilton is a registered nurse and
first assistant in surgery at Capital Ortho in
Flowood. A mom of two young boys, Wendy
loves to watch them play ball in her free time,
as well as traveling and making memories
with her family.
“My favorite career achievement was taking
the extra step to become a first assistant in
surgery. I did not know how I would be able to
do this with two young kids but I knew if I could
put my mind to it, along with the help of my
husband, I would be able to get it done.
As an orthopedic nurse of 10 years, I have
faced many challenges. The biggest challenge
by far was trying to take care of patients during
the COVID pandemic. It was also during the
pandemic that I personally faced my biggest
challenge to date. In October of 2020, my
husband was involved in a horrific vehicle
accident, leaving him with substantial physical
and brain injuries. This experience has
stretched and grown our family tremendously,
and helped my vision as a nurse to understand
what life is like at home for my patients and
their loved ones.
Treat every patient as if they were a loved
one. Listen and show compassion to every
patient, showing them you truly care about
them! Patients learn to trust you and will rely on
you for any help or advice they may need.”
Havard Real Estate Group
Derek Havard of Pearl began his real estate
career at the age of 20 and is now a real estate
broker and owner of Havard Real Estate Group.
Derek serves as the president of the Pearl
Chamber of Commerce, is a board member
for the Pearl Educational Foundation for
Excellence, and is a member of the National,
Mississippi, and Central Mississippi Association
of Realtors. Derek enjoys traveling to explore
new places, and spending time with his wife
“I always dreamed of opening my own
brokerage. In achieving that dream, I have
been blessed with an amazing group of agents
to work alongside each day. With our commitment
to service, our small firm has grown to be
home of 26 agents who have built our firm to
rank as one of the top-producing firms in the
Central MS market.
One of my former business coaches told
me that I had to learn to ‘do it, delete it, or
delegate it!’ This advice stuck with me and has
made a huge impact on my career and how
efficiently I can work each day. It taught me
the importance of having a top-notch administrative
staff, as they truly are the backbone to
34 • JULY 2021
top 40 under 40
Kevin Norman Hodges
The Blue Feather
Shelby Hennessy is the owner of The Blue
Feather a delightful new coffee shop and
bakery located in Pearl. She is a board member
with Pearl Main Street Development, a member
of the Pearl Chamber of Commerce, and
serves McLaurin Heights Baptist Church as
their VBS director and Sunday school leader.
Although she doesn’t get to go very often,
Shelby loves kayaking with her husband, is
known to thrive under pressure, and enjoys
“I was operating my business out of my
home for years. Learning how to manage that
while being a full-time stay-at-home mom to
two toddlers was very challenging at times,
and it pushed me to grow my business and
finally open my own storefront. Looking back,
I am very proud of that, especially having done
so during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some of the best business advice I’ve been
given is to ‘be patient, and you will know when
the time is right.’ Being encouraged to be
patient and wait has always been welcomed.
Even though I knew that opening during a
pandemic would be tough, I also knew in my
gut that it was the right time. We walked into it
Kevin Hodges is the pharmacist in charge at
the Brandon Kroger Pharmacy and is a
graduate of East Rankin Academy and the
University of Mississippi. Kevin is an active
member of Park Place Baptist Church, where
he serves as a deacon, Sunday school teacher,
and as a member of the stewardship committee.
In his spare time, Kevin enjoys reading,
cooking, traveling, wood working projects,
attending Ole Miss athletic events, and
spending time with his friends, family, and dog.
“I am proud of the fact that I was able to go
from intern to staff pharmacist to pharmacist in
charge with the same company and at the
same store. I still work with a few people and
see customers that were here when I started,
and those are special relationships. Also, I
knew I was doing something right when my
grandmother and great aunts moved their
prescriptions to me – that took a few years,
The district coordinator that hired me out of
pharmacy school told us, ‘There is nothing in
this world more important than how you treat
other people.’ I believe that statement to be
important not only in the workplace, but in life
in general. You never know what the person in
front of you is going through, and you may just
be the only smile or kind word that person
receives that day.”
Front Gate Realty; Destination
Homes, LLC; Destination
Properties, LLC; Pitch Perfect
Roofing & Construction, LLC;
Holditch Properties, LLC
Nathan Holditch is involved in all things
pertaining to real estate, from landscaping and
roofing, to building and selling/developing.
A Mississippi State graduate with a degree in
construction management and land development,
Nathan now co-owns four businesses
in Rankin County. Nathan is a member and
deacon at Crossgates Baptist Church and
serves his neighborhood HOA board as the
developer. When not working or spending time
with his wife and three kids, Nathan enjoys
mentoring and encouraging young entrepreneurs,
as well as wakeboarding, snowboarding,
off-shore/in-shore fishing, and boating.
“The biggest challenge I’ve faced is being
surrounded with tons of people doing the
same things I do and doing them well. The
way I have to overcome this is by developing
methods and strategies that separate me from
the crowd while more importantly benefiting
my clients. Through the years, I am most proud
of the connections I have made, the relationships
I’ve built, and the people I have been
able to help.
The best business advice I’ve received was
to ‘spend less than you make. “Following this
advice has allowed me to both save money
and build up working capital.”
Hometown RANKIN • 35
Paul Maxwell Holley
Rankin County Sheriff’s Office,
Rankin County Election Commission
Paul Holley provides legal counsel for the
sheriff of Rankin County and was recently
elected election commissioner for District 2 in
Rankin County. After receiving his bachelor’s
degree from Mississippi State University, he
went on to obtain his juris doctorate from the
Mississippi College School of Law.
In his free time, Paul enjoys coaching youth
sports, reading, hunting, fishing, and working
out. Paul is a member of the Mississippi Bar
Association, the Rankin County Bar Association,
and the Northshore Elementary PTO.
“The career achievement that I am most
proud of thus far is being presented the 2020
Lee Tartt Award. Being mentioned in the same
breath with the man that made the ultimate
sacrifice for his colleagues and the citizens of
this state was a huge honor.
My father told me once to listen more and
speak less. He explained that people often
want to just be heard and that by just being a
good listener, you can learn more in addition to
maybe just helping that person out.”
Joshua Lunn is the co-founder and director
of engineering for Kopis Mobile in Flowood.
Joshua graduated from Mississippi State
University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.
He is an accomplished entrepreneur, using his
software design and development skills to
build complete systems in a variety of
industries such as financial services, electric
utilities, and online retail. When time allows,
Joshua enjoys playing and watching golf.
“Helping to build the fastest growing
technology company in Mississippi is something
I’m incredibly proud of. As of 2021, we
have an eight-year-old Mississippi-based
technology company that is still going strong
and defying the odds. We at Kopis have a
strong team that is able to weather whatever
challenges come our way.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve
received is to enjoy the journey. As a high
achiever, I am often focused on the end goal.
I have learned that focusing only on the end
product leads to short bursts of joy in achievement
that quickly fades. However, having a
vision/purpose, building a great team, and
striving to constantly provide value to our
customers helps to maintain a feeling of pride.”
Son Seekers After School
and Summer Camp
Matt Manor is the owner and program
director at Son Seekers in Pearl. Matt is a
member of Hickory Ridge Baptist Church,
and is a member of a national network of
childcare directors, as well as the Rankin
County and Pearl Chambers of Commerce.
“I had no savings and was working two
jobs when I started Son Seekers. I had to leave
my full-time job and keep shortening and
giving up shifts at my part time job. It was an
amazing time of seeing God provide for me
when my income was a fraction of my monthly
bills. To say my faith was built as I had no other
option but to trust Him to multiply fish and
loaves, both in the business and in my life
personally, is a big understatement!
‘Give yourself a salary.’ I grew up watching
my dad put everything into his business, and
the struggle of balancing pulling money for
personal use and putting money back in the
company to keep it afloat. He eventually
partnered with an investor, who set him on a
salary. That stuck with me as the tone of both
work and home was completely changed.
Being a salaried employee has allowed me to
be guilt-free about earning a living, taking care
of the program’s needs, and then allotting the
remainder as profit or funds to continue to
grow and improve the program.”
36 • JULY 2021
top 40 under 40
Alana Victoria Miles
Whitney Leigh Pace
Rivertrust Federal Credit Union
Alana Miles obtained her Bachelor of Arts
in Psychology from Mississippi University for
Women and is currently the marketing director
for Rivertrust Federal Credit Union. Alana
enjoys traveling, painting, clothing/costumes,
and celebrating every holiday possible.
“Working through the Covid pandemic was a
challenge, of course, because of the unprecedented
fear that we all felt from an unseen and
unstudied enemy. Our lives completely changed,
from the way we conducted business, to the
way we moved throughout our days, to
interacting with one another. I pray that we are
rounding a corner in this pandemic battle.
Through it all though, God has been good.
My faith has gotten me through.
My dear friend and mentor, Judge Mary
Libby Payne, has been a constant source of
support and inspiration to me ever since we
were matched together in the mentor program
at MUW. I was an aspiring lawyer at the time,
and we became fast friends. At some point,
I was applying for and stressing over some
accolade, and she quickly noted: ‘Alana, you
are well-deserving, and you are certainly
qualified. But don’t you ever tie your self-worth
to man-given awards. Because if you’re not
enough without it, you’ll never be enough
with it.’ Those words have echoed in my mind
countless times over the years and as I’ve
Studio Sole Dance,
Soul to Sole Dancewear
Whitney Pace of Florence is the owner of
Studio Sole Dance and co-owner of Soul to
Sole Dancewear. She is a proud member of
the National Dance Education Organization
and the Rankin County Chamber and, of
course, enjoys dancing, choreographing,
traveling, and drawing.
“I am most proud of simply pursuing my
dreams and starting my business from the
ground up. With the help of my parents, I was
able to pursue a passion and make it a career.
A couple years after Studio Sole Dance
opened, I partnered with my mom to open a
dancewear/athletic clothing store. I’m humbled
that not only was I able to bring dance to a
continuously growing community, but that I
was also able to make being a dancer more
convenient by opening the store. I am proud
of the success of both!
Treat people right! - I learned early in
my business career that if you treat people
(employees, customers, students, etc.) the right
way, they will support your dreams. I strive every
day to do just that. I try to continuously show
my appreciation for my staff as much as
possible. I believe a huge part of building a
business is building relationships. I always say,
‘GOD loves Studio Sole Dance.’ He never fails
to show himself in every aspect of my business
and I always want the people around me to
know just how grateful I am.”
Lyndsey Patrick is the lead CRNA (certified
registered nurse anesthetist) at GI Associates
in Flowood. After she received her Bachelor
of Nursing from UMMC, Lyndsey went on to
Samford University to receive her Master of
Anesthesia. Lyndsey loves jazz music, and
not many people know that she can play the
“As a working mother of five boys, the
biggest challenge for me is finding balance
in work and home. My heart is with my family,
and my work enables me to enjoy them all
the more. This year at GI Associates, I have
stepped into the lead anesthesia role, and my
goal is to lead well. I am humbled and thankful
that my colleagues trust me to be fair and kind.
‘People will forget what you’ve said, people
will forget what you did, but they will never
forget how you made them feel’ – Maya
Angelou. In anesthesia, there is a small window
of time to build rapport with a patient. I am with
them at their most vulnerable time, and it is
important to me to build trust. I also find this
advice echoes through the rest of life as well
- people desire to be acknowledged and
appreciated. A genuine attitude of kindness
and honor gets you there.”
Hometown RANKIN • 37
Deloris Larria Powell
Right Investment Realty, LLC
Deloris Powell with Right Investment Realty
is a real estate broker and a member of the
National Realtors Association. Deloris enjoys
spending time with her family, cooking, interior
decorating, and being a hair stylist.
“My biggest challenge has been becoming
an entrepreneur. I have always been somewhat
of an introvert and never considered myself
to be business oriented, and certainly not a
salesperson. With the support and encouragement
from my husband, I finally took that leap
of faith and established my brokerage firm in
September 2020. I’m excited and looking
forward to a long prosperous career in real
estate if it is the Lord’s will. God has blessed
me to become a registered dental hygienist,
licensed hairstylist and establish my real estate
brokerage firm all before the age of 40.
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to
be open minded and eager to grow - there is
no success without failures, knock downs, let
downs and growing pains. The joy of being an
entrepreneur is reflecting back and realizing
that I overcame those setbacks through
constant prayer and faith in God trusting he will
see me through every situation according to
his will. Those challenges have equipped me
to perpetuate unrelenting growth.”
Fresh Cut Catering & Floral,
Julia Putt majored in horticulture with a
concentration in business and floral management
during her time at Mississippi State and
is now an event stylist and floral designer with
Fresh Cut Catering and Floral and Galleries
Rentals in Flowood. Julia’s latest hobby has
been floral workshops, as she loves meeting
new people and sharing her passion for flowers.
“I am most proud of our amazing staff, and
that we were able to stay standing while being
faced with Covid and a fire. We lost our new
building for our new event rental business,
Galleries, and everything in it. It was heartbreaking
to watch it literally burn to the ground,
but by the grace of God, He got us through
and allowed us to rebuild and move back in
within ten months! We know Covid hit a lot
of businesses extremely hard, and our hearts
remain with them.
Never stop dreaming - the sky is the limit!
My parents have taught this to be so true. For
example, my dream has always been to have
a showroom where our clients could better see
what we offer, and that is exactly what Galleries
provides. It has truly been a dream come true
to watch our clients better visualize their event
with our rental displays! I appreciate my
parents Wendy and Bruce Putt for allowing an
expansion of the business. Without them,
I would not be where I am today!”
East Rankin Academy
Brooke Rhodes is the new head girls’
basketball coach at East Rankin Academy in
Pelahatchie. She earned both her bachelor’s
and master’s degrees from the University of
Southern Mississippi and now serves as an
ambassador for Shannon’s Homes of Hope
and is a member of Women’s Basketball
Coaches Association. In her free time, Brooke
enjoys farming at her family’s farm, running,
and most outdoor activities.
“Prior to April 2021, I was college basketball
coach for six years. Four of those years were
at the Division 1 level in areas of the country
that I was unfamiliar with. I had to make all new
relationships for recruiting while also helping
turn around a program that had previously
been in shambles. This experience was very
challenging but taught me a lot about perseverance
and the importance of relationships.
The best advice I’ve been given is to have/
find a job that you truly love so you never work
a day in your life. I can honestly say that I’ve
found that job, because I love basketball and
helping young ladies become better players.
But more importantly, I love building relationships
with them and helping them grow into
38 • JULY 2021
top 40 under 40
Jerrick W. Rose
Christopher Landon Stroud
Lindsey Renee Walker
The Pediatric Dental Studio
Jerrick Rose is a pediatric dentist and the
owner of The Pediatric Dental Studio in Pearl.
Outside of his work in dentistry, Jerrick is a
volunteer and active board member with
Bridge Builders Leadership institute and is also
a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.
Jerrick is an avid gym enthusiast, traveler,
restaurateur, and real estate investor.
“My greatest challenge has been starting
my private practice, which is part of why The
Pediatric Dental Studio makes me most proud!
This practice was developed from the ground
up and has flourished into more than I could
have ever imagined. We have treated well over
20,000 patients and we are still growing. We
have a knowledgeable and well-trained staff,
whose primary concern is the care of our
patients. We participate in our community, both
as individuals and as a group. My colleagues
remain my greatest resource and I appreciate
‘Dress for the job you want not the job you
have.’ This statement impacted my entire life.
I have always conducted myself with the future
me in mind. Living by this mantra has afforded
me many opportunities. No matter where you
are in life, strive for greater and greater will come.”
The Club at Crossgates, The Club
24/7, Brandon Athletic Club,
Brandon Club Properties
Landon Stroud earned his bachelor’s degree
in physical education with a concentration in
fitness management, and now serves as the
general manager with The Club at Crossgates,
The Club 24/7, Brandon Athletic Club, and
Brandon Club Properties. Landon loves to
spend time with his children, bow hunt,
wakeboard, and work out, and many do not
know that he is also a talented musician and
artist, enjoying playing guitar and recording
his own piano pieces.
“I’d have to say the specific career achievement
that makes me most proud so far has
been building the team for and launching
The Brandon Athletic Club/Kids Club Aftercare
and summer camp. The Lord opened so many
doors throughout the process to make it
happen, and it’s been truly awesome to see
Him bless families through our staff and
In the beginning of my career, I had to
overcome trying to do and be all things and
learned to delegate and distribute responsibility
more frequently. ‘In your core team of
management personnel, hire people that excel
at your weaknesses.’ I consider this advice
every time I hire for key positions in our business,
and really believe it’s part of what has allowed
us to grow exponentially.”
Lindsey Walker is a medical laboratory technician
and currently serves as a lab manager with
NewSouth Neurospine in Flowood. Lindsey is
a member of the American Society of Clinical
Pathology, and loves to serve her home church
where she is a team leader for a women’s
discipleship group, is the chairman of the
children’s ministry and nursery, and teaches
fifth and sixth grade Sunday school. Lindsey
has a heart for serving and getting to know
others, and enjoys reading, music, spending
time with her family, and watching her kids
“Since I have been promoted to lab manager,
I have been able to bring in a fully functional
lab to my employer. When I was hired, everything
was contracted, and now we have a lab
that can run over 50 tests in-house for our
patients, and I’m proud to have been a part
of this accomplishment.
The best business advice I ever received
was to let your work prove your point. If you
work hard, are honest, and stay humble, your
hard work will pay off. Above all else, give
God all the glory. NewSouth Neurospine is a
wonderful place to work, and I’m so blessed
to be there!”
Hometown RANKIN • 39
Tiffany Boyte West
Brennan Morris Williams
Richard Tanner Wilson
Bob Boyte Honda,
Bob Boyte Honda Moss Point
Tiffany West earned her degree in broadcast
journalism and is now a dealer manager at
Bob Boyte Honda. Tiffany is a board member
for Special Olympics Mississippi and NAMAD/
NADA, and enjoys singing, playing tennis,
biking, and helping young women in business
“Being a young female in a male dominated
industry was extremely difficult to break into
and earn respect. It was important to me to
always work my hardest, be the smartest I
could be, and to always grow. I overcame this
challenge by working in every department
within a dealership, not being afraid to ask
questions, learning from my mistakes, and not
making them twice, all while setting aside my
ego and always listening to the best advice.
Something that has always kept driving me
is this piece of advice from my dad: ‘The day
that you stop learning is the day you stop
growing and when you stop growing, you start
dying.’ Our dealership is number one because
we have always strived to provide exceptional
service. We work with our hearts because we
are passionate about what we do but also think
with our heads to make sure we are the most
efficient ones out there. When we find
mistakes, we fix them and go on to the next
and we never stop.”
The Wilander, Hopper Properties,
Children’s Hospital of MS
Brennan Williams is co-owner of The
Wilander in downtown Brandon, is an associate
broker with Hopper Properties, and also serves
as a pediatric critical care nurse practitioner at
Children’s Hospital of Mississippi. Brennan is a
member of a number of professional realtor
and nurse practitioner organizations, and
enjoys photography, tennis, bartending, and
attending Ole Miss football games.
“Through my different careers and passions,
I have the opportunity to serve people. At the
hospital, I serve the children of Mississippi and
their families on what is often their worst day.
As a realtor, I serve families by helping them
find their dream homes and represent them in
some of their biggest investment transactions.
The Wilander has given me the opportunity to
serve my community. The ability to serve my
community and the state of Mississippi has
been my biggest blessing and proudest
A wise friend once told me, ‘Always seek
an opportunity to learn.’ Shying away from
education, or these opportunities, is what I
believe to be one of the most detrimental
characteristics to growing as a person, a
leader, and a business owner. As a young
leader, I remain cognizant of my position
by searching for others that I can look up to
and grow from regularly.”
Tanner Wilson Farm Bureau,
K.R. Wilson, Inc.,
Disinfect-Care of MS, LLC
Tanner Wilson is a native of Florence and
a graduate of Mississippi State University. He
proudly serves our community as an insurance
agent with Tanner Wilson Farm Bureau, and
also owns and operates two additional
businesses locally: K.R. Wilson, Inc. and
Disinfect-Care of MS, LLC. Tanner is a member
of the MWPCOA, MSRWA, and the National
Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
When not working, Tanner enjoys spending
his time hunting, playing golf, exploring the
outdoors, and being with his son, Wynne.
“Owning and operating three business in
Rankin County, two of which we built from
scratch, is my proudest career achievement
thus far. The biggest challenge I have had to
overcome is remembering a work-life balance
is critical to having healthy relationships and a
successful business. Having a supportive
spouse is key. I wouldn’t be where I am today
without the support of my family, friends and
‘Take care of people and they will take care
of you.’ This has been true with employees,
friends, owners we do business with, as well
as their employees. An appreciative work
environment is always the best environment.”
40 • JULY 2021
top 40 under 40
Miller’s Custom Carpentry
Hunter Miller is a graduate of Brandon
High School and the owner/founder of Miller’s
Custom Carpentry based out of Florence.
Hunter is known for his craftsmanship,
professionalism, and work ethic, always
completing a job with excellence. In his spare
time, Hunter enjoys hunting, fishing, coaching
his son’s baseball team, and spending time in
the great outdoors.
“Deciding to step out in faith and invest in
myself has been the biggest challenge I’ve
had to overcome in my career so far. Leaving
a dead-end job was scary, but I’m glad I did, as
it has proven to be well worth it. I’m just proud
to be where I am today. When I started this
business, my family and I were living in my
father’s rental trailer, eating his leftovers. Today
we just finished building our forever home on
36 acres, and I couldn’t be happier to be able
to provide that for my family!
Value over revenue – this phrase/advice is
some of the best I’ve been given and has
definitely impacted my career. Revenue will
only come after someone values what I have
to offer. It is crucial to always build a trustworthy
relationship with the customer.”
Special thanks goes to
for sponsoring this event.
And congratulations to all the winners!
Hometown Rankin Magazine
looks forward to telling your stories
as your stars continue to shine.
BEST OF THE BEST
Hometown RANKIN • 41
42 • JULY 2021
v o t e d " b e s t D i n n e r "
PROUDLY SERVING THE JACKSON AREA FOR OVER 30 YEARS
Hometown RANKIN • 43
44 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 45
• 1½ cups crushed pretzels
• 1 (8 oz.) container frozen
whipped topping (thawed)
• 4½ Tbsp. of white sugar
• 1 (6 oz.) package strawberry
• ¾ cup butter - melted
• 2 cups boiling water
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 (16 oz.) package frozen
• 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix
together the pretzels, sugar and
butter and press into the bottom of a
9x13 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes
or until lightly toasted. Set aside to
cool completely. In a medium bowl,
beat the sugar and cream cheese
until smooth. Fold in whipped
topping and spread evenly
over the “cooled” crust.
Refrigerate until set (about
30 minutes). In a medium
bowl, stir together the
gelatin mix and boiling
water. Mix in the frozen
strawberries and stir until
thawed. Pour over cream
cheese mixture in pan.
(at least 1 hour).
• 12 whole fresh mushrooms,
tough ends trimmed
• 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
• 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese,
• ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
• ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
• ¼ tsp. onion powder
• ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
• cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare
a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Clean mushrooms with a damp
paper towel. Carefully break off
stems. Pulse in food processor to
get them to a fine consistency.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium
heat. Fry chopped mushroom stems
and garlic in hot oil until all moisture
has disappeared taking care not to
burn the garlic (3 to 5 minutes).
Spread the mushroom mixture into
a bowl to cool completely (about
10 minutes). Stir cream cheese,
Parmesan cheese, black pepper,
onion powder, and cayenne powder
with the mushroom stems and garlic
until very thick and completely
mixed. Use a small spoon to fill each
mushroom cap with a generous
portion of stuffing. Arrange stuffed
mushrooms onto the prepared
cookie sheet. Bake in preheated
oven until piping hot and liquids
tart to form und the caps (about
• 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• ½ tsp. salt, divided
• 1 cup diced fresh zucchini
• ½ tsp. black pepper, divided
• ½ cup chopped red, yellow
or green bell pepper
• 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled & diced
• ⅓ cup chopped onion
• ½ cup chopped fresh tomato
• 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
• 9 large eggs (or) 1 cup egg
substitute and 5 fresh eggs
Heat olive oil in 10-inch cast iron
skillet. Add zucchini, bell pepper,
onion, thyme or rosemary, ¼ tsp.
salt, pepper and garlic. Cover and
cook until vegetables are tender,
stirring occasionally , usually 5-7
minutes. Stir into any other leftover
vegetables and tomato. Cook,
uncovered for 5 minutes or until
liquid evaporates. Combine eggs
and remaining salt and pepper.
Stir with a whisk until frothy.
Pour egg mixture into pan over
vegetables, stirring gently. Cover,
reduce heat and cook 15 minutes
or until almost set in the center.
Preheat broiler. Broil frittata
3 minutes or until set. Invert onto
a serving platter and cut into wedges.
Makes 8 servings.
46 • JULY 2021
Nancy Swales and her husband have
lived in the Cornerstone Subdivision
for five years. This home has made it
possible for her to really enjoy
cooking with a huge open space
looking into the den, dining room
and breakfast area. Nancy’s family
enjoys cooking and eating at home
with each other.
H O M E T O W N
Back to School
a u g u s t
Donna Speed is a registered dietitian
and works for the Dairy Farmers of
Mississippi. She enjoys preparing a
frittata because she is able to use
vegetables she’s grown in her own
back yard and it’s perfect for breakfast,
lunch, or supper. Donna has lived in
Rankin County for over 33 years and
loves that the community is such a
family-oriented place. She is active
with preschool ministries at Pinelake
and is grateful to be raising a
6-year-old angel that keeps her busy
Don’t miss this opportunity to revamp your
fall wardrobe with incredible clothing and
accessory vendors from all over the state.
Friday, August 6, 10am-7pm
Saturday, August 7, 10am-6pm
$5 entry / Cash or card
601-260-9277 for more info
Hometown RANKIN • 47
48 • JULY 2021
LYNDSEY, ON A JOB
The physicians and staff of
GI Associates join in celebrating
Lyndsey Patrick as a Top 40 Under 40.
As a certified registered nurse
anesthetist, Lyndsey is a great example
of the CARE approach to patient health
that is foundational at GI Associates.
Learn more about GI Associates at gi.md
Richland Senior Center Q&A
What does freedom mean to you?
To me, freedom means
I have the ability to speak and
express my thoughts without
being told what to do. We are
blessed to be in a country
where we still can worship as
we please and express ourselves.
I am proud to be an
Freedom can be used in
a good way or a bad way.
I choose to be grateful for
my freedom and do as much
good as I can. Here in Richland
I’m glad they have given senior
citizens a place to come and
enjoy our freedom, sharing
with others the fun, exercise,
crafts, games, etc. Freedom
is something Christians
should always use for good.
Freedom means having the
opportunity to live life doing
what we love to do everyday,
serving our Lord where
and when we want.
Freedom is the right to
worship my God of choice.
I want my great-granddaughter
to have the same freedoms
I have had for my 74 years.
America is the greatest country
of all! Let freedom ring!
Freedom means I have the right
to express my opinion in all
situations, the freedom to go
to the religion of my choice, to
vote for whom I want to, and
be allowed to have and/or
carry a gun. It is the greatest
thing a country can have
– true freedom.
Freedom means being able
to worship, go to church, and
fellowship with other Christians.
We got a lesson during Covid
what freedom meant.
Freedom is the right to make
life choices without fear of
persecution. As an Army nurse
veteran, my personal and
political freedom was paid for
by the sweat, blood, and life of
the American G.I. As a Christian,
my religious freedom was
paid for by the sweat, blood,
and life of Jesus Christ.
God bless the USA!
Freedom is everything.
Without it, you have no voice
- and government usually runs
what you do and how it’s done.
The men and women who have
fought all these years for our
freedom should always be
remembered as very special
and for everything they do,
even losing their lives.
50 • JULY 2021
It means I can talk to my
friends and be with them
when I can. I can go to church
and I can be with my family,
and that helps me.
Freedom to vote, freedom
to worship, freedom to speak,
freedom to a good education.
God Bless America, a great
country to raise your children.
Freedom means everything to
me. Freedom means
doing what God has planned for
me. Freedom means joy,
happiness, love and faith.
Freedom is the right to vote
with an I.D., and a fair election
– the freedom to speak.
Jimmie Sue Simpson
Freedom means everything
Freedom of religion and speech
- to be able to make choices
without being dictated.
I feel so blessed to live where
I do, when I do. We are so
blessed to be free, to come and
go and feel like it’s OK to do
whatever within the law.
Freedom is my grandchildren
being able to grow up in the
same world as I did: free
to do what the want, to live, to
speak, and to worship.
The Richland Senior Center
has been in operation for twenty-five years and is a true
treasure of the Richland community. The staff at TRSC is
very intentional about creating a space for seniors with an
area to gather, practice favorite pastimes, learn new skills,
and foster friendships, both old and new. Card games, arts
and crafts, dance lessons, and exercise classes are just a few
examples of the programs available to these beloved citizens.
TRSC staff puts the mental and emotional health of their
members at the forefront, which they demonstrate through
encouraging participation in the Bible study and grief counseling
classes. A couple of times a year, the center travels with
about thirty-five seniors, out of state, to do a little exploring!
Branson, Missouri, has been a favorite in the past, and the
group is planning to visit Savannah, Georgia, and Pigeon
Forge, Tennessee, in the future.
“We are passionate about seniors. Our job here is to
enhance their quality of life through physical and social activity.
It’s a wonderful thing. We’re fortunate to have a city that knows
it’s population of senior adults and wants to take care of them.”
-TERRI WOOD, SENIOR SERVICES DIRECTOR
Hometown RANKIN • 51
52 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 53
54 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 55
56 • JULY 2021
Tell us about your family.
We are the Coker family! Our family of four includes
Karrie and Bradley, Grayson who is five and Camden
who is four. Bradley’s hobbies include farming and
working on hot rods, and Karrie loves chasing the
Coker boys around the farm.
How did you meet, and how long have you
Bradley and I met at a University of Mississippi
Medical Center party, and have been married for
Do you allow time to be with your spouse
for a date night?
Yes, we try to go out on a date at least once a month.
We especially love to go out for sushi!
What brings you the greatest joy as a parent?
It is our goal to raise our boys to be self-sustainable,
respected, humble and God-fearing men. Our greatest
joys come when we see glimpses of that in our young
Who is the financial manager in your home?
I handle the personal and day-to-day finances, and
Bradley does the business side of things, handling the
finances of Coker Farms.
Hometown RANKIN • 57
What do you see in your role as the greatest benefit
to your family?
BRADLEY - My greatest benefit to my family is my work ethic.
KARRIE - The greatest thing I bring to the table for my family
is my compassion.
What’s a quick go to meal that isn’t fast food?
And who does the cooking?
I do most of the cooking, and even some of the grilling.
Spaghetti in the insta-pot is the go-to at our house!
How long has Pelahatchie been your home?
We have lived in Pelahatchie for six years. We looked at the
place we live now when our oldest was only two weeks old.
What are some of your favorite things about
Rankin County is a down-home community where the
people are caring and supportive with the best schools,
fire department, and police department.
How do you spend your summer breaks?
We work on the farm with our boys.
What accomplishments make you proud during
your time living in Pelahatchie?
The start of our farm to table business “CokerFarms” is
definitely something we’re proud of since we’ve lived in
Pelahatchie. CokerFarms was established as an alternative for
people that care what is in their beef, pork, and lamb. From
farm to field, we aim to please and would like to meet our
customers’ needs for many years to come!
What drives you to have the job that you have?
BRADLEY nurse anesthetist - Helping people get better and
back to their normal lives drives me day in and day out.
KARRIE occupational therapist - My patients motivate me.
I love to hear them laugh and reminisce. I love recommending
home adaptations and habits to help them live more fully in
QUESTIONS FOR THE CHILDREN
What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?
GRAYSON I love riding around checking on the animals.
CAMDEN Jumping in muddy puddles.
What’s your favorite TV show?
GRAYSON Hot Rods
CAMDEN Paw Patrol
58 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 59
As First Vice President at
BankPlus, Emily is one of
our finest. So we’re proud,
but not surprised, that she has
been chosen for this honor. Her
service to the community has been
recognized by many. We take our
hats off to Emily.
ON BEING NAMED
TOP 40 UNDER 40
Emily Chance, RN, BSN
First Vice President
& WellnessPlus Manager
© Copyright 2021 BankPlus.
60 • JULY 2021
for voting me as
Rankin County's Best Realtor
It has been my pleasure and honor to serve you!
Hometown RANKIN • 61
TURN YOUR HOPES OF HOMEOWNERSHIP
into a reality
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ATTORNEY TREY JONES
62 • JULY 2021
Mississippi Book Festival
The Mississippi Book Festival started when a group of like-minded
literary friends got together over the course of a year, studied
other book festivals and decided it was time to make a concerted
effort to start a festival. The spark was lit when Malcolm White
connected Holly Lange to Jere Nash and they met with John
Evans of Lemuria Bookstore and Steve Yates of University Press
of Mississippi. Soon thereafter, a board was formed and a date
was set for first ever Mississippi Book Festival. August 22, 2015
was a bright, sunny day when John Grisham welcomed large
crowds, lines of festival-goers wrapped around corners in the
Capitol and our literary lawn party was born.
The festival represents the best of Mississippi and, while some
of our legendary authors may be long gone, their work endures
for all time. There always seems to be a new book on Welty,
Alexander, Faulkner, Wright, Morris, Wells, et al. and panels
are structured to continue to delve into those literary giants.
But the festival also honors our current host of authors whose
notable talents are recognized not just within our state, but well
beyond; Jesmyn Ward, John Grisham, Richard Ford, Angie
Thomas–the list goes on and on. We want to celebrate those
authors, and so many others, here and now! When we do that,
we hope to inspire a new generation of writers.
The book festival celebrates our readers. We typically host over
170 authors and connect them with more than 9,000 readers
through a series of panels, interviews, and book signings on
the day of the festival. Our booksellers sell thousands of books.
That’s what we call a celebration! Meeting a favorite author
can be life-changing and if we inspire even one young child to
continue reading, or write a book, the festival honors our state
in the best way we know how.
In 2019, the festival celebrated its 5th anniversary with a record
crowd of over 10,000 at the State Capitol Complex. In five years,
we’ve hosted poet laureates, a Librarian of Congress, a Supreme
Court Justice, several Pulitzer Prize winners, and while we paused
in 2020, the 7th Annual Mississippi Book Festival will be held
on August 21, 2021, live and in-person.
This year’s line-up features some of today’s brightest and
best authors, such as Walter Isaacson, Kiese Laymon, Aimee
Nezhukumatathil, Jerry Mitchell, Richard Grant, Angie
Thomas, and Nic Stone, just to name a few. You won’t want
to miss Curious George’s 80th Birthday Celebration in the
To learn more about the festival and to view past panels from
the festival, please visit msbookfestival.com and signup for our
regular email newsletter. As always, the Mississippi Book Festival
is free and open to the public. We look forward to seeing everyone
on August 21st for Mississippi’s own Literary Lawn Party!
Hometown RANKIN • 63
64 • JULY 2021
FOR VOTING US:
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BEST FINANCIAL LENDER
MEMBER FDIC | EQUAL HOUSING LENDER
Hometown RANKIN • 65
66 • JULY 2021
“God definitely put me in an area where I could serve,” said Capt. Jack W. Smith,
operations officer in the Mississippi National Guard. Jack admits his transition
into military life was not the usual as he was a “late bloomer” being called and led
after making a career for himself in the business world.
Jack and wife, Lauren, grew up together in Brandon attending the same school. The then-cheerleader and football player
began dating right before their senior year. It wasn’t long before they realized their parents had also gone to school together at
Brandon Academy years prior. Their love story began to resemble what movies are made of. Quickly becoming inseparable
and “high school sweethearts,” the pair set out to begin their life together after graduation.
Hometown RANKIN • 67
While Jack was attending classes at Hinds Community
College, he was “all but signing the dotted line” away from joining
the Marines. This came at a time when our nation was rocked
by the devastating events of 9/11. He recalled, “I didn’t pursue it
then and thought that chapter had closed.” God had other plans
for Jack. He just didn’t know it yet.
He put all thoughts of the military in the back of his mind and
joined Lauren in Oxford at Ole Miss. After graduation, Jack and
Lauren were married and he spent the next 10 years traveling the
states in the insurance industry. Coming full circle, they returned to
Brandon where he worked at Trustmark National Bank.
Jack admits, “We lived near the armory in Brandon at the time
and every time I drove by it, something clicked. I just had this desire
to serve that I couldn’t let go of. It just wasn’t going away. I knew
that I had to do something.”
Jack prayed about what his next step should be. Approaching
Lauren and explaining this overwhelming pull to join the military,
he asked, “Do you think you can let me pursue this dream?” As the
couple sought confirmation from the Lord, Lauren wholeheartedly
gave her blessing for Jack to pursue his dream and admitted her
strong desire to become a mom and begin a family.
Enlisting in May, the couple found out they were expecting a
precious child in June. Jack said, “Two dreams came together right
away as our prayers were answered.”
Lauren added, “One of the scriptures that helped Jack make the
decision to join the military was Mark 10:45, For even the Son of
Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a
ransom for many.”
Lauren said, “The first time I went to a military base, I was
overwhelmingly humbled and saw that it’s not about me or Jack.
I am honored to be part of that and watch him be a leader for
However, the couple quickly found out the challenges that come
with this life. While Jack was away at basic training, Lauren spent
several weeks without him home to experience the joy and excitement
that comes from pregnancy and creating a new life. She said,
“One of the biggest challenges while he was away, was the lack of
communication. But I would send photos and letters.” Upon his
return home, their daughter, Mary Olive, was born.
Jack added, “God has taught us patience and persistence.
We have trusted His provision and plan for our life.”
68 • JULY 2021
In all things, Jack and Lauren lean on their faith in their pursuits.
He admits, “God put me in an environment to serve. I look past
ranks to see a good person. A good leader knows that behind every
person, from a superior all the way down, is a story–someone
unique. I strive to get to know them on a personal level and look
through their uniform, into their heart.”
Captain Smith is proud to serve his community and country,
and is eager for what the future holds.
With a new baby, they admitted that there was a fear of Jack
being “shipped off ” and of course, the ever-present fear of
dangerous assignments. Looking back, Lauren recalled, “When
we were first married, he traveled with his job at Trustmark two
weeks out of every month. I truly believe that God was preparing
my heart for the times that Jack would be away from home for
his job with the military.” They have had eight years to settle into
the military life that Jack loves so much.
Jack said of the 1-204th Air Defense Artillery Regiment and
Covid-19 Joint Task Force, “Its truly an honor to work with, work
for, and have the opportunity to lead so many people in such a
Hometown RANKIN • 69
70 • JULY 2021
SERGEANT FIRST CLASS
“Every time I put that uniform on, I carry the flag on my shoulder. This country
is dear to me,” said MS National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Antonio McCullum.
Antonio’s love and adoration of our great nation is evident and resonates in all that he does. Growing up with grandfathers
who both served in the military, he saw and understood from an early age what that truly meant. Seeing firsthand
what life was like for servicemen, his interest was sparked. When recruiters came to his high school, he decided to take
advantage of the opportunities provided to servicemen and enlisted in 1999.
With five deployments under his belt and entering his 22nd year in service as BN Master Gunner with the
1st Battalion, 204th Defense Artillery Regiment, he knows the joys and struggles that come from this life. With the
loving support from wife, Leah, and children Makenzi (18), Kennedy (16), and Caroline (3), the family understands
the sacrifices it takes to make it all work.
Hometown RANKIN • 71
Antonio and Leah had known each other for many years
through their families, but it wasn’t until a chance outing with
mutual friends, they knew there was something more. Quickly,
the pair were smitten with each other. After a year of dating,
they went on vacation to the most magical place on Earth,
Disney World, with Leah’s two young children.
Leah recalled, “Upon leaving, Antonio asked me in front of
the kids if I had a magical experience in which I told him I had a
great time. Then he said, ‘Well, this may make it more magical….
Will you marry me?’” Leah immediately said yes and the couple
was married later that year in 2010 on a day that shared another
special occasion, Antonio’s birthday.
Being a military family is full of joys and blessings–but also
comes with many challenges. Leah said, “Some of the joys of
being married to a serviceman include knowing that he serves
our country daily, the respect people of all races give him, and
just the joy he gets out of doing what he does.”
Antonio added, “The respect I get from all races while in
uniform is a big joy especially when you are away from your family.
Most people I meet are always supportive.” Having others recognize
their service and support what they do is a morale boost
that oftentimes helps servicemen know that what they are doing
is making a difference.
Servicemen and women play an integral role in our country’s
freedoms. But the sacrifices they make for our country, unfortunately,
come at a cost. Oftentimes, soldiers are away during special
events in their children or spouses’ lives. Antonio said, “One of the
biggest challenges has been when I am away. I missed our first
anniversary, but thankfully we were able to video chat and with
social media, we can communicate when I am away.”
Leah added, “There are some challenges that come along with
it which include not being here during deployments especially
for special events, death of family members, birthdays, family
reunions, and holidays, worrying about when he’s on a certain
mission if I will get to talk to him even if it’s just to check on him,
abrupt/impromptu assignments especially if we have something
planned already, and of course the obvious, always wondering if
he will return.” The worry and fear from loved ones are a reality
they face every time a soldier leaves. These families bravely
embrace this lifestyle without a second thought. Their dedication
and courage are unmatched.
Spouses and family members understand the sacrifices of serving.
Children sometimes do not grasp the magnitude of what our
military does and how we have our freedoms because of them.
To them, they are just regular people with cool jobs.
72 • JULY 2021
Leah recalled, “When the kids were younger and he was gone
and we saw a group of soldiers on TV, they would ask if that was
his group or if he knew them. Being little, they didn’t know that
there are thousands of soldiers.” She explained, “Now that they
are older, they respect what he does and understand the importance
of his job to defend/protect our country.”
The dedication and commitment to our freedoms is something
only a few are called to do. Antonio said, “When we come
together, we put everything aside and become brothers and sisters
no matter the race or gender.” He added that the brotherhood
is truly a family and they lay it all out there for each other to serve
this great nation. He takes great pride in being able to wear that
uniform and walk alongside other like-minded soldiers that
courageously fight for our freedom and safety.
As a military spouse, Leah concluded, “I am certainly happy
to be married to Antonio and seeing him in uniform as a distinguished
black man gives me such honor to know that he serves
our country proudly.”
Hometown RANKIN • 73
74 • JULY 2021
“In the 2nd grade, I told my parents I would be a fighter pilot in the Air Force,”
admits Lt. Col. Ashley Sullivan. From an early age and growing up in a military family,
Ashley knew exactly what he wanted to do and set out on a journey to make it happen.
Being a self-proclaimed “military brat,” he admits that his dad never pushed him into the military but has always been
supportive in his choices and aspirations. Wife, Kristin, said, “Being an Army pilot was his childhood dream. I’m proud of
his determination and the sacrifices he made to make that dream a reality.”
Ashley’s formal military career began in 1996 when he enlisted in the MS Army National Guard as an intelligence analyst.
He said, “You don’t enter into service without pride to be able to stand in front of and salute our flag. I have always had a true
desire to serve and understanding of our freedom from seeing, firsthand, the places that don’t have them. You realize the role
you have in our freedoms and maintaining them.”
Hometown RANKIN • 75
Knowing the challenges and sacrifices that military life brings,
Ashley prayed and left it to God to bring him his future spouse. It
wasn’t long before Ashley and Kristin met and fell in love while attending
the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He
said, “God brought the right person into my life. She knew and accepted
the role. I’m so lucky to have her. She is super independent and
The couple was engaged and set a wedding date for January
2004. Kristin, a New Orleans native, was busy planning their wedding
which takes several months in the popular Nola area. During
their engagement, Ashley joked, “My superiors called and I thought
they were calling about the wedding, maybe to attend.” Unfortunately,
the call was military business. The couple suddenly had a huge
decision to make as Ashley learned he would be deployed to Iraq in
December, a month before their scheduled wedding.
Ashley said, “It was a big decision. We could move it up or postpone
the wedding, that is if I came home. Being a new pilot, there
were many unknowns.”
Kristin fully accepting this lifestyle and eager to marry her love,
used contacts from her job in New Orleans making connections that
not only sped the wedding up but caught the attention of the media.
Their wedding and story were featured throughout the Louisiana
area as soldiers began their deployments.
The challenges just kept coming. Kristin said, “Coming from a
military family, he was too familiar with the sacrifices that are made
with having his job. Any event that you want to attend or that is important
will more than likely get interrupted. In our case, it was our
wedding and the arrival of our first child along with missed birthdays
Ashley added, “I was deployed when she was pregnant with our
first son and building our home. She was moving into a new house
with a new baby all alone. Being a nurse, she is used to always being
flexible and somehow she just picks up with no issues of being mom
and dad.” He joked that they now plan life and vacations and tell him,
“We are going here, we hope you can make it!” Life does not stop with
assignments or deployments. Sacrificing those special family moments
are just a few of the challenges servicemen and women face to
do what they love and to serve our country.
Kristin said, “When he’s home, we value family. I’m proud of him
for fulfilling his dreams. I’m proud of him for being brave. I could not
do what is expected of him for his job. I cannot imagine the bravery
and discipline it takes knowing that you are going into a place where
someone will potentially try to kill you.” This is a stark reality of what
life is sometimes like for our soldiers and they step in that role without
76 • JULY 2021
Ashley said, “As a child, you don’t grow up desiring to be a hero.
You grow up wanting to be like your heroes. For me that was my
father, Command Chief Master Sgt. Charles R. Sullivan. I watched
his service and sacrifice to this country. I admired him and his work
ethic. He was able to serve our country while still being there for our
family as a father and husband. To this day, he is my hero. Patriotism
and joining the military grew naturally from his example.”
Now with two sons of his own, Liam and Grayson, he strives
to set that same example for them. Lauren added, “Even with his
extremely demanding job, he is always there for us, one way or
another. The boys are getting old enough to see not only the
sacrifices he makes, but also how he always makes time for them.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Ashley’s years of dedication
and hard work have earned him an impressive list of assignments,
decorations, badges, and honors. He currently serves as the assistant
chief of joint staff and executive officer for Joint Force Headquarters
for the MS National Guard.
To his colleagues, he is a well-decorated man of honor who takes
his role in the military seriously. He said, “In addition to the patriotic
side, I get the most joy when I can really affect a soldier’s individual
life whether it’s military or a personal issue. We are a real family.
Coming from so many different types of units, I get to offer a fresh
To Kristin, he is her soulmate. She concluded, “I love him for
what he does for our family and how he loves us.” To their two boys,
he is just dad who gets to have “the coolest job” flying helicopters. His
godly and patriotic example will live on through his children as he
continues doing what he loves and serving this great nation.
Hometown RANKIN • 77
78 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 79
love a good
with fresh milk.
fruit is added,
a swirly dollop
cream on top.
Now imagine a milkshake on
steroids. A big Mason jar with icing
and sprinkles around the rim, milkshake
inside, and topped with
mounds of whipped cream and
all kinds of add-ons such as candy,
cupcakes, cookies, fruit and just
about any other sweet treat that you
can imagine. A milkshake big enough
for two or more. A milkshake that is
an experience like none other. Now
you know what’s in store when you
visit The Yard Milkshake Bar in
Owned by Christian Ulmer and his
wife, April, The Yard opened in Flowood
in August 2020 - a big leap of faith,
considering the world was in the
middle of a major pandemic.
Christian says he never thought about
getting into the ice cream business.
“This was never on my radar,” he says.
“I was active-duty military until 1999,
then went to grad school. I signed up
for a five-year inactive ready reserve
and was told they never call anyone up.
Then came 9-11, and I was called up.
That took me over the ten-year mark,
and I stayed in the reserves, retiring in
2013. I retired in June of last year from
working with a government contractor.”
80 • JULY 2021
Retired, but too young to sit at home,
Christian wasn’t sure what his next
chapter would be. “My wife and I took
our two daughters to Orange Beach in
June 2017, and while there, we decided
to go out for ice cream. We looked up
places to go and saw The Yard. It looked
like a fun place, so we went, and we
Founded in May 2017 by Logan and
Chelsea Green of Gulf Shores, Alabama,
the company is rapidly expanding with
franchises across the country. “I was
super impressed with our experience
there, and immediately looked into
becoming a franchisee,” says Christian.
“We got home from vacation, and I
started the process.” He chose Flowood
to locate his business because it was the
best spot he could find in the metro
Jackson area. “The reception here has
been tremendous,” he says. “We have
customers who come from all over the
As they were building out their business,
Christian got a call from a friend. “He said
I should watch Shark Tank. I turned on
the TV and Logan and Chelsea Green
were presenting The Yard to the Sharks.”
The founders of the company were
asking for $400,000 to go towards new
franchises. With a couple of Sharks
interested and making offers, Mark
Cuban swept in to close the deal. “It has
been amazing to come into the fold and
getting in on the ground floor,” says
The whole Ulmer family is involved
in the business, including Christian and
April’s daughters, Evyn (13) and London
(10). “They are still young, so they help
with sweeping up and such, but they’ll
grow into more hands-on roles as they
get older.” Christian says that this is a
first-ever job for many on his team.
“I look at this as a teaching opportunity,
to train future leaders. They are learning
responsibility, and they are gaining
self-esteem and confidence. They take
their job seriously. We have a great team
that I’m very proud of.”
The Yard, as a company, encourages
creativity. “I didn’t want a cookie-cutter
business,” says Christian. “We have a set
menu, but we also premier three to four
monthly specials. There is also a ‘secret’
menu that features creations by our staff.
They have come up with some really
wonderful creations.” Christian says he
hopes he can develop a scholarship fund
for his staff members in the future.
Hometown RANKIN • 81
In addition to over-the-top milkshakes, The Yard
also offers sundaes, edible cookie dough, and ice
cream. “We source as much as we can locally,
including getting our fruits from local vendors and
farmers markets.” Christian is looking at other places
to open new franchises, including Charleston,
The couple met when he was stationed in
Washington, D.C., and she was doing a fellowship
there. “I moved back to my home state of New York,
and April moved to Pennsylvania. We ended up
getting married, and when we decided to have
children, we wanted to be closer to her parents,
so we moved to Mississippi in 2009. I had never
been to Mississippi before she brought me here.
is located at
113 Dogwood Boulevard
Sunday - Thursday
11am - 9pm
Friday - Saturday
11am - 10pm
I may not be from Mississippi
but I’m never leaving. This state
has been so welcoming.”
82 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 83
Shannon Love was everything you would
want in a friend. A loving wife, mother, and
grandmother, Shannon gave of herself to those
around her. “Shannon was one of the most
kind-hearted, compassionate, and spiritual
women that I have ever known,” says Michelle
Rhodes, president of the board of directors
of Shannon’s Home of Hope. “She loved her
husband and family so much and was so proud
of her children, sons-in-law and grandchildren.”
Michelle and Shannon became acquainted
in 2012 when Michelle worked as the juvenile
detention administrator for the Rankin County
Sheriff’s Department. Shannon had a heart for
young people and wanted to minister to the
youth at the juvenile center by providing art
classes, which she faithfully did every Thursday.
On one of her visits, she brought a sandbox to
let the kids dig for treasures because she realized
that many of the youth had never been to the
beach. One of the most memorable crafts she
made was a book of the children’s handprints.
She told them she would place her hand over
their handprints and pray for them. This project
was one of the most meaningful to the youth.
They knew Shannon truly cared for them and
they never gave her any trouble.
Shannon gave so much of her time and
energy to others in need, one would never
know that she had struggles of her own.
Diagnosed with lymphoma at 25 and breast
cancer at 40, Shannon battled cancer for much
of her adult life. Ultimately, the cancer would
spread, but despite her illness, she continued
to work with the youth and envisioned a home
for those in crisis situations. “Shannon was a
realist. When she knew that the cancer had
spread to much of her body, she had a talk
with her family and her closest friends about
her decision to discontinue treatment. She
was trying to prepare all of us for her death
and let us know that she would miss us, but
looked forward to being in heaven,” Michelle
says. “She and I had discussed opening a home
for years. We decided to take a leap of faith
and begin the process because she was sick and
knew she might not be able to work on it much
longer.” Michelle suggested that the home be
called “Shannon’s Home of Hope” because
Shannon’s love for the youth that she worked
with gave them hope despite their oftendesperate
situations. Shannon was humbled
but agreed on the name, and, with her friend
Madelyn Roberts, was able to design the logo
before her death.
Shannon passed away on December 10,
2018, but her legacy continues through
Shannon’s Home of Hope. The board and
volunteers are working to raise funds to
purchase land and a home to provide temporary
housing for children in crisis. Shannon’s
Home will be a safe home-like environment in
84 • JULY 2021
which youth will receive services such as case
management, character building, educational
assistance and advocacy, medical care coordination,
and transportation to appointments.
“Many of us don’t realize how many children
in Rankin County are in crisis,” Michelle
shares. “It’s easy to get caught up in our own
world and assume everyone has the same
lifestyle we do. Unfortunately, many children
suffer the negative consequences of their
parents’ choices and actions. We want every
child to have a chance for success, regardless of
his or her home environment. Whether the
issue is abuse, neglect, a child in need of
supervision, or even a runaway, Shannon’s
Home will be a safe place to stay. Our hope is
that the partnerships we forge with the
community will inspire a culture that embraces
and supports vulnerable children as we work
with families and authorities to eventually
Shannon’s Home of Hope will have a social
worker on staff who will work with families to
assess needs and connect them with available
resources. Working with parents and not just
the youth can help prevent sending kids back
into a toxic environment. Parenting classes,
alcohol/drug services, and GED classes all
benefit the family as a whole. Additionally, if
parents cannot provide basic necessities such
as food, shelter or transportation, a stable
home life is difficult to maintain, so connecting
families to available services in our community
While the search continues for land and a
home, help is being provided in other ways.
Donations from individuals and community
partners allow Shannon’s Home to assist with
immediate needs which vary from situation to
situation. Anything from clothes to haircuts to
groceries have been provided, as well as a hotel
room for a mother and child who were in a
domestic violence situation. On June 12th,
Shannon’s Home of Hope held the second
annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament to raise
money for its mission. All Things New
ministries graciously donated hamburgers and
gatorade, and corporate sponsors and community
members contributed time and money to
make this a successful, fun event that organizers
hope will grow every year. Funds raised
bring them that much closer to the goal of a
Before she passed away, Shannon Love
purchased a plaque, the words of which
perfectly sum up her philosophy, as well as
those who carry on her mission. “Start where
you are, use what you have, do what you can,
and it will be enough.”
For more information on Shannon’s Home of Hope, visit
shannonshomeofhope.org or follow them on Facebook.
Hometown RANKIN • 85
86 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 87
88 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 89
to First Responders
Why did you decide to be a fireman?
A friend of mine was a volunteer with the Ridgeland Fire Department. I was
out with him one day when his pager activated and we responded to a medical
aid call. I was hooked from that day forward. The thought never crossed my
mind until that point. I had always wanted to serve, so in 1989, I joined the
National Guard right out of high school in order to serve my country. I thought
by becoming a firefighter, I could serve my community and help those in
their time of need. I became a volunteer with the city of Ridgeland in 1993
and became a paid firefighter for the City of Ridgeland in 1995. I have never
looked back and have absolutely loved every minute of my career.
How long have you been with the
Puckett Fire Department?
I moved just outside of Puckett in 2012 and immediately joined the Puckett
Volunteer Fire Department. I became their training chief not long after
becoming a member. All the members of the Puckett Fire Department have
been trained to the level of volunteer fire fighter.
Tell us about your family.
My wife Terryl and I met and were married in May of 1995. She works as an
auditor for the Department of Defense. We have two children, a daughter that
is 28 and is currently serving as a flight medic in the Air Force, stationed in
Okinawa, Japan, where she flies sick and wounded military members back to
the States. I can’t think of a more honorable job than the one she has. My son
is 22 and is currently getting ready to begin his senior year at Delta State
University in Cleveland, Mississippi. He is enrolled in the aviation program
with hopes to fly with FED-EX after graduation. God has richly blessed us
through the years and I couldn’t be more proud of my family.
PUCKETT FIRE DEPARTMENT
What is the toughest thing you have experienced in
The toughest things as a firefighter are the patients and property that were lost
along the way. You try so hard to save as many lives and as much property as
you can. The ones that you do lose, you never forget. I continue to give myself
to the job, and lose pieces of myself along the way. We are taught to be tough
and not let things get to us, but that is impossible. We build our walls up for
protection and there are times when we build the walls up and block out our
family, friends, co-workers and yes, even God. It has been labeled as
post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short. I like to think of it as
post-traumatic stress injuries. It is an injury to our minds that most firefighters
never get help for. We would seek help for an injury to our arm or leg but
never seek help for an injury to our minds. There is a team in Rankin County
that I am a part of for first responders—the Rankin County Critical Incident
Stress Response Team. We go around talking to first responders involved in
the horrific calls that stick with them. I also started a class at The Pointe
Church in Brandon called Biblical Solutions for Line of Duty Stress and
Trauma. I have found these classes geared to helping others has helped me
90 • JULY 2021
Share some things you enjoy in your spare time.
My wife and I recently purchased a camper and that has become my escape.
I love going to different areas around the state and the southeast to escape the
hustle and bustle of life. I also enjoy hunting and fishing.
What are three things on your bucket list?
I would love one day to take my wife to Germany. I have been throughout
Europe with the military and would love to go back. I would love to go to
several of the top dive sites in the world. And I would love to go to
Who is someone you admire and why?
I would have to say my wife. I was deployed in 2015 when I got the worst
phone call I have ever received. It was my wife on the other end of the line that
said she had breast cancer. The Air Force sent me home immediately through the
Red Cross where we began a very scary journey together. She had a double
mastectomy and received chemotherapy treatment. I admire her unwavering
faith and the positive attitude she portrayed throughout the journey.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young person,
what would it be?
I would have to say, find a career that you love. The saying is, if you find a job
that you love you will never work a day in your life. This is so true. Being a
firefighter for 25 years has been the best experience of my life. The satisfaction
of helping people in their time of need is so gratifying. There has never been a
day that I wake up and say that I don’t want to go to work.
What is your favorite thing about Puckett?
The smalltown feel where you get to know everyone. I moved to Puckett
nine years ago and immediately joined the Puckett Volunteer Fire Department.
The fire department welcomed me with open arms and now I feel as much a
part of the community as families that have lived there their entire lives. I got
to meet all the selfless volunteers of the Puckett Fire Department and got to
witness, firsthand, the tireless dedication to the town of Puckett and surrounding
communities. The volunteers answer the call, day or night, without compensation.
They do this for love of their neighbor—and that in and of itself should be
commended. Members of the Puckett Volunteer Fire Department have become
my second family. The sign coming into town says there are a few sore heads
but I haven’t met them yet.
What is your favorite thing about Rankin County?
Rankin County has the best fire service and law enforcement in the entire
state making it the safest county in the state of Mississippi. Rankin County
has four paid fire departments and 15 volunteer fire departments. I have been
so impressed with how organized each department is and that has a large part
to do with Rankin County Emergency Operations Center. There are also four
city police departments and Rankin County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s
department has a very large area to cover and they do an amazing job of
getting to emergency calls. If you ever need emergency services, you can
bet they will be there in a timely manner.
Hometown RANKIN • 91
-BRACE THE FUN!
YOUR HOME FOR CORPORATE
OUTINGS, BIRTHDAY PARTIES,
FAMILY NIGHT OUT, AND MUCH
DIRECTOR OF STADIUM OPERATIONS
RANKIN'S BEST OF THE BEST
TOP 40 UNDER 40
92 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 93
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Hometown RANKIN • 95
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thank you for voting us
“besT BarbeQue” of rankin county
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
601-825-7675 · sonnys-brandon@acgBbq.com · 1374 West government street Brandon, ms
96 • JULY 2021
Five years ago, with the intense desire to promote Rankin
County businesses being at the core of our company mission,
the team at Hometown Publishing, publishers of Hometown
Rankin Magazine, embarked on creating a red carpet event
that would celebrate the outstanding business community in
which we live and work. Rankin County’s Best of the Best
Red Carpet was born.
So, we thank you. Thank you for not only supporting this event
but for supporting each other as we all strive to make Rankin
County the very best it can be.
Hometown RANKIN • 97
Nominees & Winners
Osaka Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Bangkok Thai Cuisine
Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Grill - WINNER
Fuji Japanese & Sushi Grill
Asahi Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Dickey’s Barbeque Pit, Brandon
Little Willie’s BBQ
Sonny’s BBQ - WINNER
Boo’s Smokehouse BBQ
Smokehouse of Florence
Burgers & Blues
Laid Back Burger Shack
Mugshots Grill and Bar - WINNER
Steak ‘n Shake
Taste of Detroit
BEST DELI RESTAURANT
Chicken Salad Chick
Frisco Deli - WINNER
McAlister’s Deli of Brandon
Newk’s Eatery of Flowood
BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
El Cabrito Mexican Restaurant, Florence
El Potrillo Mexican Restaurant, Brandon
El Sombrero, Flowood
Papito’s Mexican Restaurant, Flowood
BEST PIZZA RESTAURANT
Lost Pizza Co. - WINNER
Mazzio’s Italian Eatery, Richland
Papa Johns, Florence
Pizza Hut, Richland
Soulshine Pizza Factory
Boo’s Smokehouse BBQ
Table 100 - WINNER
Sugar Magnolia Takery
SweeTee’s Treats & Design
The Yard Milkshake Bar - WINNER
Alumni House Sports Bar & Grill
Buffalo Wild Wings
The Gallows Bar at Genna Benna’s
4 Top Catering
Fresh Cut Catering & Floral
Georgia Blue - WINNER
Sugar Magnolia Takery
The Hungry Goat
BEST COFFEE SHOP
Cups at Crossgates - WINNER
Another Broken Egg - WINNER
The Donut Shop, Florence
Cross Country Grocery
Grant’s Kitchen and Grill
Mama’s Kitchen - WINNER
Amerigo Italian Restaurant - WINNER
Cerami’s Italian Restaurant
Half Shell Oyster House
Jerry’s Fish House
Health & Wellness
BEST FAMILY DOCTOR
Dr. Carrie Nash, Baptist Medical Group,
Brandon - WINNER
Dr. Todd Perkins, Merit Health, Flowood
Dr. Marc C. Hellrung, St. Dominic’s,
Dr. John Brooks, MEA Medical Clinic
Dr. James D. Polk, Greenfield Family
BEST FAMILY MEDICAL CLINIC
Baptist Medical Clinic, Brandon - WINNER
Florence Family Medical Clinic
Merit Health, Flowood
St. Dominic’s Family Medicine, Brandon
Dr. Amanda H. Cook, The Children’s Clinic
Dr. Danny Mullins, The Children’s Clinic
Dr. Dennis W. Rowlen,
Rankin Children’s Group - WINNER
Dr. Adam Adcock, The Children’s Clinic
Dr. W. Craig Flowers,
Rankin Children’s Group
98 • JULY 2021
BEST PHYSICAL THERAPIST
Blake Hobbs, Apex Physical Therapy
Mark Ware, The Strength Center Physical
Performance Therapy - WINNER
Samantha Odom, Elite Physical Therapy
Brooks Fortenberry, Performance Therapy
BEST NURSE/NURSE PRACTITIONER
Karen Seago, NP, Merit Health - WINNER
Kelley Martin, NP,
Florence Family Medical Clinic
Candace Ashley, NP,
Florence Family Medical Clinic
Jennifer Pate, Tri-County
Pulmonary & Sleep Clinic
Donald Garrett, NP,
Greenfield Family Healthcare
BEST SPECIALTY MEDICAL CLINIC
East Lakeland OB/GYN Associates
Jackson Healthcare for Women
MS Sports Medicine and
Orthopaedic Center - WINNER
New Path Counseling
BEST SPECIALTY MEDICAL
Dr. Missy McMinn,
East Lakeland OB/GYN Associates
Dr. Chris Kneip, Capital Ortho - WINNER
Dr. Donald Baker, Orthopedic Surgeon,
Merit Health Medical Group
Dr. Chad Hosemann, Capital Ortho
Dr. James Ramsey, MS Sports Medicine
BEST ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY
Peach Tree Village Assisted Living
Plain View Assisted Living
The Blake at Flowood - WINNER
Villa South Assisted Living
Dr. Lynn Flower, Fowler ProChiropractic
& Wellness Center - WINNER
Dr. Brad Kennedy,
Kennedy Chiropractic Clinic
Dr. Chad Brown, Brown Chiropractic Clinic
Dr. Joanie Winstead, Reservoir Chiropractic
Dr. Hailey Fortenberry,
Brandon Family Chiropractic
Dr. Jason Cox, Belle Meade Family Dental
Dr. Shaun Mayette, Mayette Family Dentistry
Dr. Sara Langston, Dental Wellness
Dr. Wendy Lewis, The Winning Smile
Dental Group - WINNER
Dr. Erin Green, Grants Ferry Family Dental
Dr. Anna Taylor, Taylor EyeCare
Family Optometry - WINNER
Dr. Anh Giang Edwards,
Professional Eyecare Associates
Dr. R.W. Pharr, Family Eye Care
Dr. Mark Allen, The Optical Shoppe
Dr. J. Minor Pace, 20/20 Vision Care
BEST FITNESS CENTER
Burn Boot Camp, Flowood
Fitness 1440, Richland
Focus Fit, Pearl
Squad 232, Flowood
The Club at Crossgates - WINNER
BEST MASSAGE THERAPIST
Trusting Hands Massage Therapy
Lacey Clark, The Wellness Spa - WINNER
Rachel Garletts, Well Being Massage Therapy
DeAngela Hall, The Peaceful Escape
Tonya Blough, Reservoir Chiropractic
Jennifer Brown, Garrett & Garrett
Kimberly Foreman, CPA - WINNER
Jason Witcher, Witcher CPA
Kristi Thompson, Barlow & Company
Tom Windham, Windham & Lacey
Erin Zieren, JH&H Architects
JH&H Architects - WINNER
Jose´ Arellano, Pryor Morrow
Jeff Green, The Pickering Firm
Nat Whitten, The Pickering Firm
Sharon Thibodeaux, Patterson & Thibodeaux
Tameika Bennett, Bennett Law Office
Mel Coxwell, Law Office of Mel Coxwell
Jeff Arnold, Arnold & Associates
Elliott Law Firm - WINNER
BEST FINANCIAL ADVISOR
Trustmark Bank - WINNER
Chas Gualano, Trustmark Bank
Raymond James Financial Services
Humphreys Consulting Group
Rob Osborne, Primerica
BEST FINANCIAL INSTITUTION
Community Bank, Brandon - WINNER
Priority One Bank, Brandon
Renasant Bank, Flowood
Trustmark Bank, Castlewoods
Hometown RANKIN • 99
Nominees & Winners
BEST FINANCIAL LENDER
Community Bank Mortgage - WINNER
Leslie Key, Iberia Mortgage
Kasey Finklea, Diversified Mortgage
Savana Skelton, Origin Bank
Shane Dubois´, Community Bank
BEST INSURANCE AGENT
Malcolm Houston, State Farm - WINNER
Jordan Pitts, The Policy Center
Stephen Wallace, Insurance Associates
Andy Eaton, Andy Eaton Insurance Agency
Clancy Walker, Insurance Protection
BEST HOME BUILDER
Deep South Custom Homes
Lyles Signature Homes - WINNER
Mike Roberson Builders
S & S Builders
BEST HOME IMPROVEMENT
Byrd & Cook - WINNER
Miller’s Custom Carpentry
Stephens Custom Renovations
BEST HOME INSPECTION
Chadwick Inspection Services
Clear View Property Inspections
Keith Stewart Home Inspection
Magnolia Home Inspections - WINNER
BEST HEATING & COOLING
The AC Doctors
AirCo - Heating & Air Conditioning Services
Pure Air Consultants - WINNER
AKM Air Solutions
Southern Air Services
Plant It Earth
Scarlet Oak Lawn Care
Murphy’s Lawn & Landscape - WINNER
The McCaughan Company - WINNER
Trey Fontaine, Havard Real Estate
Layla Hutton, Three Rivers Real Estate
Victoria Prowant, Southern Real Estate
Suzie McDowell, Keller Williams
Erica Burleson Photography
Haley Lowe Photography
Katelyn Anne Photography
Watson Photography - WINNER
Sherri Derrick Photography
BEST AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE
Barnett’s Body Shop
Gleason Tire - WINNER
The Service Station
The Tire Depot
BEST DRY CLEANER
Nu-Way Dry Cleaning
Safeway Cleaners & Laundry
Kolb’s Cleaners - WINNER
Dr. Scott Houston, Brandon Animal Hospital
Dr. Gina Blackwell, Oakdale Animal Hospital
Dr. Tammy Dye, Florence Animal Clinic
Dr. Rick Kirby, Hometown
Veterinary Hospital - WINNER
Dr. Ben Zieren, Luckney Animal Hospital
Miss Mandy’s Christian Daycare - WINNER
Kids Konnection Christian Learning Center
Circle of Friends Learning Center
Railroad Center Daycare
Kids Stop Daycare & Preschool
BEST CAR DEALERSHIP
Bob Boyte Honda
Fowler Buick GMC
Mac Haik Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram
Rogers-Dabbs Chevrolet - WINNER
A Yellow Rose
Chapman’s Florist - WINNER
Simply Southern Celebrations
Willow Blu Florist, Gifts and Custom
BEST FURNITURE STORE
Ashley HomeStore & Outlet
D Noblin Furniture
Ross Furniture - WINNER
T & D Furniture
100 • JULY 2021
BEST JEWELRY STORE
Jackson Jewelers - WINNER
Mike Wright Jewelry
BEST GIFT SHOP
Apple Annie’s Gift Shop - WINNER
O! How Cute
Cockrell’s Farmers Market
Doris Berry’s Farmers Market
Lakeland Yard & Garden
Rivers Greenhouse & Garden - WINNER
The Landing Plant & Feed
Brandon Discount Drugs - WINNER
Family Drug Mart
Kroger Pharmacy at Dogwood
Polk’s Drugs at Crossgates
Rhodes & Robby Rexall Drugs
BEST CHILDREN’S CLOTHING
Itty Bitty Kid’s Boutique
Southern Raised - WINNER
The Punky Rooster
Willow & Grace
BEST WOMEN’S CLOTHING
Flawless Boutique - WINNER
Heart of the South
Sweet Peas Boutique
The Beach Look Boutique
The Punky Rooster
BEST HAIR SALON
LIV the Salon - WINNER
Meraki Hair Studio
The Chop Shop Barber & Salon
BEST HAIR STYLIST
Harley Taylor, Liv the Salon
Jessica Hudson, Meraki Hair Studio
Noelle Covington, The Chop Shop
Jamie Windham, Shear Shack - WINNER
Tamara Shows, Untamed Salon
BEST NAIL SALON
Guitar Nails and Spa
Infinity Nails - WINNER
Polished Nail Bar
ZaZa Nails & Spa
BEST SPECIALTY ADVERTISING
BMARKETED - Benavides, LLC
Global Screen Printing
Hallet Group Marketing
One Way Promotional
Pollchaps Screen Print
& Embroidery - WINNER
BEST FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT
Black Axes Throwing Club
McClain Safari Park - WINNER
Spinners of Florence
BEST PLACE TO WORK
- SMALL BUSINESS
Apex Physical Therapy
Fowler ProChiropractic & Wellness Center
Greenfield Family Healthcare - WINNER
Humphreys Consulting Group
BEST PLACE TO WORK
- MEDIUM BUSINESS
Capitol Body Shop, Flowood
The Face & Body Center
Zavation Medical Products, LLC - WINNER
BEST PLACE TO WORK
- LARGE BUSINESS
Mississippi Sports Medicine
and Orthopaedic Center
Rankin County School District - WINNER
BEST NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
Central Mississippi Turtle Rescue
Ever Reaching Community Outreach
Junior Auxiliary of Rankin County
Mustard Seed - WINNER
The Baptist Children’s Village
Hometown RANKIN • 101
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Hometown RANKIN • 103
104 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 105
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Hometown RANKIN • 107
Get THERE From
Register Now For Fall Classes!
If you plan to pursue a bachelor’s
degree from a university, choose
academics and save on tuition for
your first two years.
Many professions don’t require a
bachelor’s degree. Get job-ready
with hands-on training in 1–2 years.
Hinds offers academic courses
guaranteed to transfer to
universities, more than 70 career
and technical program options
and 12 nursing & allied health
JACKSON-Academic-Technical Center | JACKSON-Nursing/Allied Health Center | RANKIN | RAYMOND | UTICA | VICKSBURG
In compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972 of the Higher Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and other applicable Federal
and State Acts, Hinds Community College offers equal education and employment opportunities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability or veteran status in its educational programs and
activities. The following have been designated to handle inquiries regarding these policies: EEOC Compliance: Sherry Franklin, Vice President of Instruction/Career & Technical Education, Box 1003, Utica, MS 39175; Phone: 601.885.7002 or Email:
EEOC@hindscc.edu. Title IX: DeAndre House, Associate Vice President Student Services, Title IX Coordinator, Box 1100 Raymond MS 39154; Phone: 601.857.3353 or Email: TitleIX@hindscc.edu.
108 • JULY 2021
Hometown RANKIN • 109
Pearl Public School District
Friends and family gathered for a luncheon honoring the 2020-2021 Pearl Public School District retirees. This group has more than 375 years of combined service
in education, with 11 retirees (*) serving PPSD students throughout their entire career in education. The 2020-2021 PPSD retirees are Monna Burns*, Geneva Davis,
Beth Ditto, Janice Dukes*, Maria Figueroa*, Bobbie Grady*, Becky Tullos Jones, Tonia Kersh*, Lynn Lewis, John McHenry*, Pamela McQueen, Gary Monk*,
Brenda Myers*, Cindy Paschal*, Darrell Rutland, Patricia Schmidt*, Janette Turner*. The luncheon was sponsored by Wier Boerner Allin Architecture and the
Pearl Educational Foundation for Excellence.
110 • JULY 2021
COMING SOON TO
G O U R M E T
S N O B A L L S
691 GRANTS FERRY RD. FLOWOOD, MS 39232
TASTE AND SEE… #ITSHEAVENLY
Photo credit to Victoria Ashley with V Ashley Photo - www.vashleyphoto.com.
Hometown RANKIN • 111
112 • JULY 2021
It’s probably an age thing, but the older
I get the more I appreciate “old” furniture.
In my younger days, I wanted every item that we
purchased for our home to have a manufacturer’s tag or
a warranty attached. Now I enjoy searching for pieces that
proudly reflect their past but need the rejuvenating touch
of a refinisher.
Years ago I was able to secure the work desk that
my dad used while sorting the mail for his rural routes.
Its distressed wood was authentic due to the loads of mail
bags emptied onto its surface, and one end was bleached
from the morning sun that warmed it for over eighty years.
Its design was simple, but workable – just what the
government intended it to be in those “good ole days.”
When it first came into my possession, my husband
helped me move it from room to room as I tried to find the
perfect spot. There just wasn’t one. Its faded surface and
scarred legs begged for refinishing, and its size demanded
more space than we could offer.
The only solution was to store it until we had
more room and then we would revitalize its finish.
We removed its sturdy legs and stored the
dismantled relic in the storage room.
It waited there for several years until we
were able to transform it into a workable
piece of furniture and place it in a spot
to accommodate its sprawling design.
It says, “Thank you,” every time I pass it.
Now its distressed surface glistens with a shiny finish,
and its strong legs gleam with matching stain. Its drawer
glides smoothly and conceals tiny grandchildren’s toys.
It doesn’t see the same kind of work it saw with Daddy,
but its worn edges are a constant reminder of the work it
once aided. Over the eighty plus years that it stood in the
post office, thousands of letters were poured onto its
surface – some filled with joy, others with sorrow. Years of
monthly bills, catalogs, and daily papers were sorted and
stacked on that desktop. News from servicemen millions of
miles from our rural home, including the ones I received from
my spouse in Vietnam, have reached their destination via
What stories it could tell! But even in its silence it bears
testimony to me. We’re each made for a purpose and when
we fulfill that purpose, we touch lives all around us for good.
The scars and dents that come with that
service will only add to our our inner
beauty, thanks to our Master-Refiner.
114 • JULY 2021
You can postpone
You can postpone
But don’t put of f your
But don’t put of f your
Many things have been postponed because of the pandemic,
Many things have been postponed because of the pandemic,
but your health care shouldn’t be delayed. Routine screenings
but and annual your health wellness care exams shouldn’t can help identify be delayed. health issues Routine in the screenings
and earliest annual stages, wellness when they exams are most can treatable. help identify health issues in the
earliest stages, when they are most treatable.
Our providers are committed to helping you stay well. We are
Our taking providers extra precautions are committed to provide to a safe helping and clean you stay environment well. We are
and offer both in-person and telehealth appointments.
taking extra precautions to provide a safe and clean environment
and Make offer your both health in-person a priority and and schedule telehealth an appointments. today.
Make your health a priority and schedule an appointment today.