Today in Mississippi January 2021 North East

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outdoors today picture this my opinion grin ‘n’ bare it

Welcome to 2021 We made it! Can you believe it? The year 2020 seemed to go on and on because of the unique challenges we faced — the COVID-19 pandemic, an active hurricane and storm season and an especially bitter and divisive political election. But today we can say that was then and this is now. You are holding the first 2021 issue of Today in Mississippi right now and we couldn’t be happier. The magazine is also our first full January issue of the publication’s run. Before, we produced a combined January/February issue. Beginning this year, our members will receive 12 separate issues annually. That makes us happy as well because it’s our pride and joy to bring you stories and photos each month that give you a look at the people and places that make Mississippi special. We also want to make sure you stay on top of news and announcements about your electric cooperative — and Today in Mississippi is the statewide publication that features that important information. Our first issue of the year is the one we always dub our “Legislative Issue.” When you look at your local pages this month, you will see the names, photos and contact information of the Mississippi lawmakers and your elected officials in Washington D.C., who represent you. Our outstanding government relations team stays in close contact with them while they monitor state and national legislation that affects the electric power industry.

This month, for our cover story, we visited with Elee Reeves, the first lady of Mississippi. It’s been one year since Elee Reeves and Gov. Tate Reeves moved into the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson. During our interview, Elee discusses her family, her full-time job, her service to her home state and what Mississippi residents have taught her about compassion and kindness. We also spoke to a Mississippi man who has made history at Harvard University about his ties not only to Mississippi but to one of our state’s electric cooperatives — Pearl River Valley EPA. Finally, we recently conducted and concluded a reader survey where you told us what you like about Today in Mississippi and what we need to improve on. Thank you for your time and feedback. We take it seriously because we want to make sure our publication is one of your favorite monthly reads. The feedback is not limited to that survey either. Feel free to reach out to editor Steven Ward anytime with your story ideas, questions or thoughts. Email him at Thanks again for being part of Mississippi’s electric cooperative community and we wish everyone a great 2021!

by Michael Callahan Executive Vice President/CEO Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Mississippi is... “Let’s go.” Thunder and Trixie dart over the doorstep. The balmy heat of summer fades. Mornings turn crisp with a gentle breeze. Coolness covers your skin with an energizing tingle. Low, the sun is smiling, relaxed with less effort of blazing the day away. The early shine of summer’s harshness now muted. I love the fall! Woodland birds caw and shriek, diving and fluttering amongst the tall pines. They swoop and challenge the labyrinth through the timber in chase of another, barnstorming with skill. Not far off, a faint and slow tap. The noise of a woodpecker whose heart isn’t into searching for a bug for breakfast. My dogs and I sit for a while, enjoying nature’s wonders before I hear a scratching sound. “It’s a bunny!” The dogs go nuts. A gray and white-tailed rabbit takes spirited hops across the lawn towards the woods. Trixie and Thunder, held back behind our fenced patio, bellow, roar and grunt till the forest’s undergrowth swallows the bunny’s tush. They grow hungry and stare at me with black glossy eyes, their hanging tongues drawing deep breaths. Trixie tilts her head, holding my notice while Thunder labors up to the house door and hits it with his paw. “Ok.” I yield to their pleasure. “Let’s go in and eat.”

Our easy-to-use mobile app provides information on Mississippi’s state and federal elected officials. Look for “Mississippi Legislative Roster” in the Apple App Store. An Android version is also available through Google Play.


by Jonney Scoggin, a resident of Taylorsville and a member of Southern Pine Electric

What’s Mississippi to you? What do you treasure most about life in our state? Send your brief thoughts to Today in Mississippi, or mail to P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158


in this issue

5 southern gardening Cool season colors of pansies

8 scene around the ‘sip A look at special people and places around Mississippi



outdoors today A gentleman’s pursuit: Quail hunting

14 local news 18 feature

A visit with Mississippi’s first lady, Elee Reeves

The Official Publication of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Vol. 74 No. 1

OFFICERS Kevin Bonds - President Eddie Howard - First Vice President Randy Carroll - Second Vice President Ron Barnes - Secretary/Treasurer Michael Callahan - Executive Vice President/CEO EDITORIAL STAFF Ron Stewart - Senior VP, Communications Steven Ward - Editor Chad Calcote - Creative Director/ Manager Elissa Fulton - Communications Specialist Rickey McMillan - Graphic Designer Kevin Wood - Graphic Designer Chris Alexander - Administrative Assistant EDITORIAL OFFICE & ADVERTISING 601-605-8600

Acceptance of advertising by Today in Mississippi does not imply endorsement of the advertised product or services by the publisher or Mississippi’s electric power associations. Product satisfaction and delivery responsibility lie solely with the advertiser. • National advertising representative: American MainStreet Publications, 800-626-1181

Circulation of this issue: 473,099


24 on the menu

Puffy pot pies and soup

27 mississippi seen

Non-member subscription price: $9.50 per year. Today in Mississippi (ISSN 1052-2433) is published 12 times a year by Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi Inc., P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300, or 665 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, MS 39157. Phone 601-605-8600. Periodical postage paid at Ridgeland, MS, and additional office. The publisher (and/or its agent) reserves the right to refuse or edit all advertising. POSTMASTER: Send all UAA to CFS. (See DMM 507.1.5.2) NON-POSTAL AND MILITARY FACILITIES: send address corrections to: Today in Mississippi, P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300

Hopes for 2021


On the cover Elee Reeves, Mississippi’s first lady, at the Governor’s Mansion. Photo by Chad Calcote.

FELINEFriends Share photos of you and your cat or just your cat.

Photos must be high-resolution JPG files of at least 1 MB in size. Each entry must be accompanied by photographer’s name, address and co-op. Also, the cat’s name. Attach digital photos to email and send to Deadline: March 5. Select photos will appear in the April 2021 issue.





SWEEPS FACTS: Giveaway No. 16000; End Date: 2/24/21; Est. Odds of Winning: 1 in 6,200,000,000. You Have Not Yet Won. All Entries Have the Same Chance of Winning. We don’t know who the winner is. Enter For Free. You don’t have to buy anything to enter. Enter As Often As You Like. You may submit additional entries by writing to the address provided. Each entry request must be mailed separately. Buying Won’t Help You Win. Your chances of winning are the same as someone who buys something.




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pansies are great cool-season colors

Flowers with dark blotches such as these are thought of as a more traditional pansy, but pure color selections called clear are available in the Matrix series.

violet and smooth, pale-yellow shades While visiting a garden center are very much reminiscent of their actual upstate, I was reminded that if you wine and cheese namesakes. This mix is haven’t done so already, now is the hard to find, and when I do find it, I buy, time to get your pansies planted for buy, buy. great cool-season color. Delta pansies have freely branching Stop in your favorite garden center growth characteristics and will get now to find all kinds of colorful pansies 8 inches tall and wide. Delta pansies ready for their new home landscapes. produce more flowers, and they bloom Pansies are among my go-to annuals, much earlier than other pansies. As with and there are some great selections the Matrix pansies, Delta pansies have available in the market. huge flowers that are held above the My all-time favorite pansies belong Delta pansies such as these Fire selections produce more flowers foliage by strong stems that allow the to the Matrix and Delta series. and bloom much earlier than other pansies. petals to flutter in a light breeze. I think Matrix pansies are some of Be sure to maintain a consistent soil moisture, and feed your the toughest annual, cool-season color plants, which should be planted in everyone’s garden and landscape. For several years, the pansies with a water-soluble fertilizer, even during the winter months. Pansies are a great choice for winter flowering as the Matrix group of pansies has been a great choice for gardeners in plants can freeze solid and thaw with little damage. In response to Mississippi. the cold, the leaves will be tinged purple. Matrix offers a huge range of colors and styles. Flowers with When the plants freeze, the flowers are nipped back, but once dark blotches are thought of as a more traditional pansy. For pure it gets a little warmer, the flowering gets revved up again. color, though, there are blotchless selections that are called clear. Matrix and Delta pansies will give you nonstop color to get A nice feature of the clear flowers is that the throat of each has a you through the winter. The short, sturdy stems resist stretching, small, yellow eye. which means the plants will look good long after the days begin Matrix pansies are also available in color-coordinated mixes warming up in the spring. instead of the traditional random color mixes. Buy your Matrix and Delta pansies now so you get the best Matrix pansies have freely branching growth habits and will selection. In no time at all, your flower beds and containers will be reach about 8 inches tall and wide. When massed together as pansying and ready for months to come, and they will continue pansies were meant to be planted, they create an impressive, looking good into spring. colorful landscape carpet. Matrix pansies flower earlier, and the huge flowers are held above the foliage by strong stems. This structure allows the petals to flutter in the slightest breeze. Delta is another group of pansies that will be a sure thing in by Dr. Gary your landscape. Bachman A favorite of mine has been Delta Beaconsfield, which features brilliant yellow flowers with blotches that range in warm colors Gary Bachman, Ph.D., Extension/Research Professor of Horticulture at from burgundy to rusty red and orange. the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in My newest must-have is Delta Wine and Cheese. I love the clear Biloxi. He is also host of “Southern Gardening” radio and TV programs. flower colors that have no dark blotches. The mix of primrose, red, He lives in Ocean Springs and is a Singing River Electric member. 6 TODAY | JANUARY 2021

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HARVARD HISTORY AND HIS CO-OP PROUD by Steven Ward Mississippian Noah Harris recently made history when he became the first Black man elected by students to the office of student body president of Harvard University. After the news broke, Noah was fielding interview requests from CNN, MSNBC, Good Morning America and USA Today. Not just a product of Mississippi, Harris, 20, grew up in and around the electric cooperative family of his home state. Harris’ father, Anthony Harris, is the district manager of the Hattiesburg office of the Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association. Anthony, 52, has worked at the co-op for 27 years. “I’ve spent my entire life at Pearl River Valley,” Noah said recently in a phone call from his apartment in Boston. “The thing about electric cooperatives is, it’s a big family. Growing up around a co-op taught me about service to others. Having an impact on people, even when it’s not convenient,” Noah said. Noah said he remembers when there were big outages due to weather disasters, how he was expected to go out and help neighbors with the cleanup and aftermath. “It (co-ops) definitely played a large role in who I am and what I want to do,” Noah said. Noah’s father said his son is a leader who wants to come back to Mississippi to make a difference in his home state. “Noah knows Mississippi is a great state and he loves it. He’s passionate about it,” Anthony said. Noah is a junior at Harvard studying political science, a major known as Government at the Ivy League institution. Before he was elected student body president in November, Noah cochaired the Undergraduate Council’s Black Caucus and served as the body’s treasurer. 8 TODAY | JANUARY 2021

Noah and his vice president, Jenny Gan of Cleveland, Ohio, were elected Nov. 12 and were sworn in Dec. 6. Noah’s road to Harvard was paved with hard work, determination and a strong desire to succeed. Noah graduated from Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg in 2018 where he played baseball and basketball, played violin and piano, and served as an Eagle Scout. “I remember Noah getting home from an out of town baseball game at 1 a.m. and then breaking out his calculus homework he had to do,” Anthony said. Noah also served as an intern for Mississippi U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and authored and published a children’s book, “Successville” about setting and reaching goals. Noah said he wants to become an attorney so he can help people who need it most. The historic nature of his election is not lost on Noah. “I realize this is a big deal and I know and appreciate what it means. But I believe we were elected because of our platform, our vision and our campaign,” Noah said. Anthony said he, Noah’s mother Frankie and Noah’s 14year-old sister, Peyton Ashley are all very proud of Noah. “Noah is a humble young man. He has the right attitude,” Anthony said. Part of that attitude comes from the electric co-op. “Growing up, he was always at the office with me. Also, Noah knows that Pearl River Valley is committed to family. Family comes first,” Anthony said. “Pearl River Valley allowed me to be flexible for my family. I could help coach Noah when he was young.” Anthony said, with Noah, “the sky is the limit.” “He is such a blessing.”

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mississippi seen events


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mississippi marketplace u outdoors today d the ‘sip picture this my opinion ement


A gentleman’s

outdoor pursuit

grin ‘n’ bare it

when needed and maintain kennels filled with eager and While an assortment of hunting seasons are now open, perfected dogs. All the hunter must do is show up and enjoy the coming of a new year brings notice that these will the day. gradually fade into the past, closing until things start up Preserves come in various forms. There are some with again next fall. Turkey season is a clear exception; it is a exquisite lodges, housing and meals. These are most grand. spring affair. But the fall/winter offerings will dwindle with Easily worth the cost of admission, but expensive. And there the first two months of 2021. That said, there is little need are those that offer a basic hunt, maybe to fret. There are yet some good days a lunch thrown in. Most often a half-day ahead. And some of those good days enterprise. And these latter are likely in can be built around a truly grand bird, easy driving distance of any spot across the Bobwhite quail. the state. Costs are certainly reasonable. Some hunters will shake their heads Four preserves that I visit each year at the mention of quail, for these require no more than two hours of drivmost special of game birds and the ing, some half that. And while these are makings of a very fine country supper not the only ones, I know these and have are in short supply. It is no secret that no hesitation recommending them. They quail across the Southeast have fallen are the following: Bouie Creek Quail Farm on hard times. This tragic trend began and Preserve, Magee; 601-849-4415, 601to evidence itself at the beginning 506-1790. Dancing Rabbit Quail Preserve, of the 20th century and seemed to DeKalb; 662-803-0614. Full Flight Quail have reached super-sonic speeds of Preserve, Collins; fullflighthuntingpreserve. decline in the 1960s. Much theorizing com. And Trout Valley Quail Preserve, has gone into why this happened, but Ballet in the quail fields. There is nothing more striking than a skilled bird dog on point. Charleston; habitat changes must surely rise to So as hunting seasons end, don’t neglect a trip to a quail the top. The countryside is not what it once was. preserve. Doing so will allow you to experience a gentleThere are areas that have adequate and expansive blocks of habitat, and these spots still have quail. But for the most man’s outdoor pursuit. In memory of Travis Lindsey. part, that lonesome and haunting whistle seldom if ever is heard. Hopes are still high that research and management will rectify the loss, but this remains to be seen. Still, the idea of a quail hunt is not destined to a faint by Tony Kinton dream. Such activity is available on preserves, and several are scattered about the state. I have long been a proponent Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in of the preserve and employ such services regularly. The folks Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit for more information. operating these are congenial and have modes of transport


North East Mississippi ELECTRIC POWER ASSOCIATION For more information about Today in Mississippi, contact Marlin Williams or Tracie Russell at 662-234-6331




CEO MESSAGE Happy New Year! I certainly hope that you are ready for 2021. Though 2020 was a year full of difficulties, we accomplished quite a bit at North East Power. Our employees are consistently looking for ways that we can improve the lives of our members through innovative solutions and I feel that we achieved that this past year. We have worked hard to improve our technologies and are proud that we now offer an interactive website and mobile app to assist with all of your North East Power and NE SPARC business. As a result, effective January 1, 2021, we no longer accept payments in the field or after hours. For your safety and the safety of our employees, please see page 15 for the many ways you can easily pay your bill. In addition, we have made great strides in completing the requirements for the CARES Act grant that we received from the Mississippi legislature to provide internet service to the un- and underserved members in our most rural territories. In doing so, we had more than 30 crews working diligently to install fiber. We have met the requirements, and we have now turned on a large number of circuits. We are actively working to connect anywhere from 80-100 homes per week. However, with the number of people waiting to be connected, we just ask for your continued patience and know that we are reaching all of our members as quickly as we can. This service will enhance the lives of many. We are coming, and you own it! This project would not be possible without the continued support of many of our state legislators who believe in the importance of rural broadband access. With the legislative session convening on January 5, 2021, we continue to thank our legislators

for all that they have done to bring this much needed service to our membership. We appreciate their dedication, and we encourage you to reach out and thank them for their support of rural broadband expansion in our communities. We accomplished a great deal in 2020 at the State Capitol, and it looks like the 2021 legislative session will be a quiet one for electric cooperatives in Mississippi. I must also mention that we regret the passing of one of our long-serving board members, Mr. Jim Q. Tatum, who served on our board of directors for 49 years. He saw much change in our organization over nearly half a century, and I’ve had the pleasure to work with him in the entirety of my career. We wish to thank Mr. Tatum for his service and our sincerest condolences are with his family at this time. In closing, I am looking forward to hopefully seeing the widespread distribution of vaccines this year so that we may see some normalcy return in our communities. I would love to be able to get out and hold events to discuss North East Power and NE SPARC and to see our members again. I am very hopeful for 2021 and hope to see you all soon! All of us at North East Power and NE SPARC wish you and yours a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!

by Keith Hayward General Manager/CEO

will be closed on Monday, January 18, 2021 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In case of a power outage or emergency, please call 662-234-6331. Dispatchers are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 12 TODAY | JANUARY 2021


HIGHLIGHTS Due to social distancing and other precautions surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic, NEMEPA’s Annual Meeting was held virtually on December 12, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. The virtual annual meeting covered issues such as: NE SPARC, COVID-19, the hardships of 2020 and storm restorations throughout the year.

Director elections

James Downs, board president

Linda Liggins, member services supervisor

At NEMEPA’s Annual Meeting on December 12, three of the cooperative’s directors were reelected to the board. Gene Hartley of Oxford (District 6), Jim Q. Tatum of Taylor (District 8) and Billy Ray Brown of Oxford (District 9). Upon the passing of Jim Q. Tatum, a long-serving board member for 49 years, the vacancy was discussed in the December board meeting and a determination will be made about the vacant board position at a later date.

Congratulations to our winners! Members who watched the Annual Meeting live on our website through YouTube were eligible for prizes, as well as those that sent in their mail-in ballots.

The winners of the mail-in ballots are as follows:

The winners who watched the Annual Meeting online are as follows:

Jeff Tubbs, $500 NEMEPA Bucks Robert Gilliam, $250 NEMEPA Bucks John Renfrow, $250 NEMEPA Bucks Joey Gardner, $100 NEMEPA Bucks Sheryel Green, $100 NEMEPA Bucks Deborah Ahl, $100 NEMEPA Bucks Andrew Buglewicz, 55” TV

Ethel Warren, $500 NEMEPA Bucks Debra Downs, $250 NEMEPA Bucks Amanda Heavner, $250 NEMEPA Bucks Vicki Bishop, $100 NEMEPA Bucks Martha Dollarhide, $100 NEMEPA Bucks John R. McGaha, $100 NEMEPA Bucks James Foster, 55” TV

Jim Q. Tatum Long-serving board member Jim Q. Tatum, Jr., 85, passed away on Tuesday, November 17, 2020. Tatum served on the North East Mississippi Electric Power Association Board of Directors for 49 years. During Tatum’s service, he saw numerous changes and growth at NEMEPA. Board President James Downs said, “He was easy to work with and we always were able to reach a consensus with the board because of people like Mr. Tatum.” Tatum was born in Taylor and was a life-long resident of Lafayette County. He served two terms as District Four Supervisor. He was a military veteran, serving in both the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard of Mississippi. Tatum was a self-employed truck driver, dirt work contractor and a retired farmer. He was a member of Union West Baptist Church. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mr. Jim Tatum. We are forever grateful for his outstanding service to our membership. Downs added, “He was a very quiet individual but very dependable. He was always there, and he was a great board member.” JANUARY 2021 | TODAY 13

Meet Your Mississippi Legislature NEMEPA salutes Mississippi’s senators and representatives who represent our state in Washington, D.C., and at our state capitol in Jackson. We appreciate their dedication and willingness to serve in the spirit of public service to help shape the future of our state.


NOW AVAILABLE! A free, interactive legislative app for Mississippi

The Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi offers free versions of the 2021 Mississippi Legislative Roster app. We hope they will be helpful in your involvement with state government.

Our easy-to-use mobile app provides information on Mississippi’s state and federal elected officials. Look for “Mississippi Legislative Roster” in the Apple App Store. An Android version is also available through Google play.

It’s easy to know your elected officials. Sen. Kathy L. Chism District 3: Benton, Pontotoc and Union counties

Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd District 9: Lafayette and Panola counties

Sen. Neil Whaley District 10: Marshall and Tate counties


Rep. John Faulkner District 5: Benton, Lafayette, Marshall and Tate counties

Rep. Brady Williamson District 10: Lafayette, Panola and Tallahatchie counties

Rep. Sam J. Creekmore IV District 14: Union County

Rep. Mac Huddleston District 15: Pontotoc County


Rep. Clay Deweese District 12: Lafayette County

Rep. Steve Massengill District 13: Benton, Lafayette, Marshall and Union counties

for a job well done to all our representatives and senators who represent constituents residing in our service area.

Notice of procedure change Effective January 1, 2021

NEMEPA will no longer accept payments in the field during or after business hours. If a member has been disconnected for non-payment, they will need to use one of the many payment options we offer including: e-check, online, “Check-out” at Dollar General, Family

Dollar, CVS or any other forms of payment listed below. We also have an easy-to-use payment kiosk at our drive thru. It is accessible 24/7. Be sure to use the barcode printed on your bill to pay with Check-out or at the kiosk (these are separate barcodes).

Additional ways to make payments on your NEMEPA account TEXT PAYMENTS • Text amount you wish to pay with your saved eCheck or credit card profile. • Text “Join” to 352667. * Note: Must have mobile number on NEMEPA account.

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PHONE PAYMENTS • Call 662-234-6331 or 877-234-6331 and make a payment over the phone with eCheck or a credit card.

Please visit for additional information.

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NE SPARC recently opened both Lafayette Springs 214 and 234 Fiber Zones for service. Enterprise 224 Zone is scheduled to open before the end of the year with all MS CARES Act areas in the final stages of primary fiber construction. “Our MS CARES Act grant project is on schedule and budget. We are going to fulfill our commitment to bring Gigabit broadband to those customers in these rural areas that need it the most,” said Randall Abel, chief operating officer for NE SPARC. Both Enterprise 214 and Enterprise 234 as well as Brittany Woods 224 should be open within the next 30 days. “We are currently facing a rush of orders with so many zones opening at the same time. Our installers work from early morning until well past dark to fill as many orders a day as possible. We are trying to install a minimum of 80 customers per week and want to hit 100 per week as soon as we can,” Abel said.

Construction crews are currently working in the Sardis Lake 214 and 224 zones as well as Headquarters 224. Sardis Lake 214 is in the splicing stage and should be completed within 60 days. Underground construction crews continue to work in all parts of the Oxford area. Underground construction is handled with a separate set of crews than those working in the rural areas. “The underground construction around Oxford can be complex and time consuming so it is important that crews continue to work in these areas in order to be ready for fiber installation and splicing when the circuit is ready to take light,” said Abel. “Underground construction has no bearing on when fiber is available to rural areas. They are separate crews with separate skill sets.” Thacker Heights Zones 214 and 234 are still scheduled to come on line in the spring. JANUARY 2021 | TODAY 15

For Indianola doctor, small-town medicine delivers by Gary Pettus If she could be a character from a movie, it would be Mary Poppins. “Mary Poppins would reach into her bag and pull out a solution,” said Dr. Katie Patterson of Indianola, who, like many rural family medicine doctors in the course of a day’s work, encounters broken lives as well as broken bones. “Sometimes, patients get angry and they say that I don’t understand: ‘You have a car. You have a good place to live. You make a good living.’ And I try to tell them I do understand, and that I do love them.” For the people who have no one else to talk to, nowhere else to turn, she wishes she could reach into a magic bag of prescriptions and fix everything. And sing a song while she’s doing it. One of a half-dozen physicians seeing patients at Indianola Family Medical Group, Patterson, who once performed in high school musicals, actually can sing. She can also fix problems, but there aren’t enough songs and spoonsful of sugar to make the medicine go down for every resident who needs help, physically and emotionally, in underserved areas like Sunflower County, a throne-shaped swath of Mississippi that has lost nearly 4,000 of its subjects in the last decade alone. In the 2020 County Health Rankings, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sunflower County, population 25,000-plus, claimed one primary care physician for every 2,930 residents in 2019, compared to one per 1,900 for Mississippi and 16 TODAY | JANUARY 2021

one per 1,050 for the top U.S. performers. Some counties are worse off. Like her colleagues in Indianola, Patterson has seen patients with heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. There’s no other place she would rather be. She decided this the first time she saw the Indianola clinic, which was, in fact, the first time she saw Indianola. “I was a medical student on an externship,” said Patterson, who graduated in 2003 from the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “I delivered my first baby on Day Two. I knew then that this was something I had to do. I was going to be Doc Hollywood.” Unlike the fictional physician sentenced to community service in a small-town hospital, Patterson didn’t need a court order to send her where she was needed, or a conspiracy hatched by townspeople to keep her there — here where she and husband David Patterson are bringing up four sons. She knew this was where she belonged long before a pandemic with an 8,000-mile-long arm reached the heart of the Mississippi Delta and tried to pull it out. She realized something Dr. Wahnee Sherman, executive director of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program, has been telling medical students and residents for years now. If you want to change the world as a physician, this is where you go: rural America, said Sherman, who leads MRPSP’s quest to award scholarships to medical students who pledge to practice smalltown, primary care in the state for several years.

Certainly, Patterson helped change the world of JaQuana Sparks moved to Olive Branch from Indianola eight years Haley-Williams, 38, who has lived in the town of Sunflower ago, but his medically-related allegiance remained in Sunflower all her life. County, where Patterson delivered the youngest of his children Earlier this year, she was 37 weeks pregnant when she arrived before the family moved. at the clinic, an eight-mile drive from her home. There’s no “She’s the best doctor I’ve ever had since my own pediatrcians,” physician in Sunflower to take care of her during her pregnancy, Sparks said. “You have to love them because they give you a and the next-nearest is in Ruleville, about 15 miles north of there, sucker. Katie won’t give me a sucker. But she did try to give me a Haley-Williams said. Brussels sprout.” As a family physician, Patterson Unlike Sparks, most of Patterson’s is one of only two in Mississippi patients don’t drive 140 miles to see who still delivers babies; the other her; for some, she’s just a phone call is in Waynesboro, Sherman said. away, even in the middle of the night. Some of the greatest things Haley-Williams was 17 weeks “It’s a small town,” Patterson said. I’ve learned from her (Mom) pregnant and fully dilated when “It doesn’t take much to find my cell are endurance and faith. she first met Patterson a year phone number.” earlier at Sunflower County She got a preview of this dotor-onHospital. She lost the baby — her demand performance from her own second miscarriage. father when she was a little girl. Several months later, pregnant An “Army brat” born the oldest of again, she came back to Patterson. three children in College Station, Texas, “She has taken very good care of Patterson was in eighth grade when me. She does exactly what she says her family moved to Hattiesburg, she’s going to do,” Haley-Williams where her native-Greek grandfather said. “I love that about her.” started the Coney Island restaurant This time, Patterson was able to and where her father, Dr. Arthur Fokakis, refer her patient to a doctor who was the only allergist in town. does cervical cerclage, a stitch to It was her father’s personal touch as a treat a condition which can cause physician that drew her to the practice either a late miscarriage or of medicine. As did her mother’s a preterm birth. struggle with multiple sclerosis. This time, Haley-Williams had a “Some of the greatest things I’ve baby girl. learned from her are endurance and “God is divine,” Patterson said. faith,” Patterson said of Mary Virginia Haley-Williams’ baby was one Fokakis. All her folks have shown her of the 250 or so Patterson and her how important family is. And how colleagues deliver here each year. important a doctor can be to family. It was here, as a medical student, That hit home with her, in particular, back when future doctors may when she delivered one patient’s first have had more hands-on training, son. During an exam, Patterson learned that Patterson learned how to do that the baby had not been alive for a C-section. When you practice some time. medicine here, you’re harking back Two days later, the patient returned. to the days of doctors’ black bags “She brought me a plaque inscribed and house calls. with a poem,” Patterson said. “We’ve been dinosaurs a long time,” said Patterson, who has “It was about gratitude. She was telling me how grateful she made house calls. “Our relationship with our patients, we hope, was for my love in a terrible period in her life.” starts pre-pregnancy and goes on throughout their lives. And we That was years ago, sometime before the woman became may gain a grandmother or grandfather along the way.” pregnant again. On the same day Patterson delivered Haley-Williams’ daughter, The plaque is still on Patterson’s desk. It reminds her of the another patient was waiting for Patterson to deliver him — from grateful patient, whose first son passed away and whose second pre-diabetes: Stephen Sparks, 49, a United Methodist pastor who one lived. traveled about 140 miles from his home in Olive Branch. Gary Pettus is a University of Mississippi Medical Center writer “I’ll drive 2 1/2 hours for a good steak,” he says, “so I’ll drive and editor that far for a good doctor.” JANUARY 2021 | TODAY 17


‘An honor to serve’


VERSION #______________ RON Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested STEVEN Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested CHAD Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested ELISSA Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested CHRIS Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested ARTIST ___________ Date_____ Approved Revisions Requested

Elee Reeves enjoys leading her daughter Maddie’s girl scout troop, Troop 5577.

by Steven Ward Mississippians. It is a great honor to serve them and I’m On a recent Friday morning in December, Mississippi immensely blessed each day,” she told Today in Mississippi. first lady Elee Reeves is waiting in the Governor’s Mansion Reeves said people always ask if she’s still working for her picture to be taken. full-time. Reeves, 45, admits she’s not a big fan of posing for “I’m lucky to have a good group of co-workers that are photos. able to manage the stock market and help with my clients Still, she is smiling, kind and accommodating while she when I’m not there. I really do enjoy my job. I also plan to poses for a portrait near the giant mirror hanging on the continue my volunteer work and wall behind the desk in her office. serve on the various boards that I’m Reeves said the mirror is known a part of,” she said. as the “First Lady Mirror” and has “I hope some of this will inspire been there for years. I hope some of this will inspire young women that you can try to do Hanging near the top of the left young women that you can try it all — manage a family, work, volunwall of the office is a portrait of to do it all — manage a family, teer — we all want to better our lives Reeves and her three daughters. work, volunteer — we all want and our communities and I hope to The painting was commissioned to better our lives and our shine a light on some of that.” for a “first lady’s tea” event that communities and I hope to Her job and duties aside, Reeves was held almost a year ago as is passionate about the Girl Scouts. part of her husband Tate Reeves’ shine a light on some of that. She and all three of her daughters inauguration as governor. have been heavily involved in the organization since they There’s no doubt that the portrait of Reeves and her were old enough to participate. daughters signifies much more about Mississippi’s first lady “I love working with children and I hope to be a positive than the mirror over her desk. role model to all but especially young girls. Growing up, my Family means everything to Reeves and being a mother Girl Scout leader was a huge force in my life who instilled a and wife hasn’t taken a back seat to her duties as first lady love for the program,” Reeves said. or the full-time job she still holds in the financial industry. Reeves worked with her first troop right after graduating However, because of family, official duties and her job, a day in the life of Elee Reeves is “hectic,” she said. from Millsaps College in Jackson. “A friend at the bank I was working at told me that Girl “As every working mom knows, we juggle responsibilities Scouts of Greater Mississippi was looking for troop leaders daily, and being first lady is no different. I try to work and I jumped at the chance. Those young women taught half a day at Coker & Palmer where I am an investment me more than I ever thought of teaching them. They are advisor. The other half of my day is devoted to serving as successful in their respective careers now — dentists, first lady by attending luncheons and receptions while occupational therapists, community developers and also providing a safe environment for our guests, managing teachers,” she said. life at the governor’s mansion and listening/learning from

Elee Reeves photos in the Governor’s Mansion by Chad Calcote

“Since then, I have loved having all three daughters in my troops and I also had the honor of serving on the board of directors for GSGMS. Logistically, having different troops is a little crazy, but I have so enjoyed seeing my daughters and their friends grow in leadership, teamwork and most importantly self-confidence,” Reeves said. Reeves is currently the troop leader of her youngest daughter Maddie’s Girl Scout troop. Beautification is another issue that’s important to Reeves. “Back in February, we had the historic flooding of the Pearl River that left trash in its wake. I partnered with Keep Mississippi Beautiful to help organize community clean-ups. The first one was scheduled at Jim Hill High School in downtown Jackson. It was amazing to see students engaged and excited about bettering their neighborhood,” Reeves said. Although the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with other clean-up plans and they had to take a break, Reeves and the group recently started back with area clean-ups and hope to increase volunteer numbers as they continue working throughout the state. Reeves also loves to read to young students in Mississippi’s schools. “I love to see the excited faces and exclamations of surprise when you read a book aloud. Since COVID, 20 TODAY | JANUARY 2021

we’ve been reading to schools virtually. Although that’s always a treat, it’s not the same as being with little ones in the classroom and I long for the days we can get back to being with them in person,” she said. Reeves’ love of mentoring children, whether in the Girl Scouts or promoting literacy in Mississippi’s schools, stems from her parents.

Elee Reeves working with volunteers at a Keep Mississippi Beautiful clean up in early 2020 following historic flooding of the Pearl River.

Reeves grew up in Tylertown and later moved to McComb. “Both my mom and my dad were (and still are) very active mentors in my life. I was very active in Show Choir and the theatre department. I had the joy of playing Cinderella in the Pike County Little Theatre’s musical my senior year. My parents both went to Millsaps College and I was grateful to follow in their footsteps,” Reeves said. Millsaps, where Reeves was a member of the Millsaps Singers and the Kappa Delta Sorority, is also the place where she met her future husband during her freshman year. “I met Tate in the Else School of Business, and we often joke that he taught me how to use a financial calculator in our Money and Banking course. We both received the Mississippi Society of Financial Analyst award a year apart during our senior years and both landed jobs with Deposit Guaranty Bank as financial analysts,” she said.

The couple recently celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary. “I am blessed to call Elee my wife and to have her with me for all of these adventures for 19 years. She serves the people of Mississippi as first lady with all of her heart — because she cares about all of them. I couldn’t imagine doing this without her by my side,” Gov. Tate Reeves told Today in Mississippi. After a year in office, Reeves said the people of Mississippi have taught her that residents know how to care for one another during rough times. “I always knew that Mississippians were special, but I think that has really shown during this past year. This pandemic has left people hopeless, alone and scared. I am amazed at the outpouring of love for those in need. To see others give hope and kindness in such dark times is truly a ray of light. We are family in Mississippi and it certainly shows,” Reeves said.

I always knew that Mississippians were special, but I think that has really shown during this past year. This pandemic has left people hopeless, alone, and scared. I am amazed at the outpouring of love for those in need. To see others give hope and kindness in such dark times is truly a ray of light. We are family in Mississippi and it certainly shows.

A family portrait: Elee and Gov. Tate Reeves. From left, daughters Maddie, 8; Emma, JANUARY 13 and Tyler, 16. 2021 |


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Comforting puffy pot pies and easy soups for cold winter months On cold nights a warm pot pie or a steaming bowl of soup with a hunk of cornbread can take the chill out of your bones. Keeping a batch of blonde roux or “thickener” as we call it in the fridge can bring just about any lot of random leftovers, pantry staples or bags stashed in the freezer to the dinner table. Whether tucked under a store-bought pastry crust or spooned into a bowl, this quick addition can make the most 24 TODAY | JANUARY 2021

humble of thin mixtures luxuriously rich. The basic idea is to make a mixture of melted butter and flour, then cook it just enough to take out the raw flour taste. Once you have a batch made and cooled, a few tablespoons can be used to thicken a sauce, filling or soup. Just remember the rule: Cool thickener into hot pot.

Shrimp and Poblano Pepper Puffy Pot Pie

FILLING INGREDIENTS 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning or Cajun seasoning 1 cup peeled finely chopped carrots 1 cup finely chopped celery 1 large poblano pepper seeded, stemmed, and finely chopped 1 cup sliced green onions 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic 1 ½ cups shrimp stock or vegetable broth 1 ½ cups heavy cream ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese 3 tablespoons thickener 1 12-ounce bag frozen (41/50) cooked medium peeled, deveined shrimp, thawed, tails removed 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Unfold one pastry sheet, floured side down. Roll the pastry sheet into a 12-inch square. Press the pastry into a 2-quart round casserole dish. Fold edges and crimp around the rim of the dish. Prick the pastry thoroughly with a fork. Place aluminum foil onto the surface of the pastry. Bake for 25 minutes. (Prepare the filling while the bottom crust is baking.) Remove the aluminum foil. And set aside. While the bottom crust is baking, in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the Old Bay seasoning. Add the carrots, celery, poblanos, and cook, frequently stirring, for five to seven minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add the green onions and garlic and cook for one minute. Add the stock and cream. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Stir in the cheese and cook until melted. Lower the heat to medium. Stir in three tablespoons of the thickener, and simmer, frequently stirring, for three minutes. If needed, stir in a little more thickener until the mixture thickens and coats a spoon. Add the shrimp and the peas, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Keep warm. Fill the bottom crust with the shrimp mixture. Roll the remaining sheet of thawed puff pastry into a 12-inch square. Top the shrimp filling with the pastry and fold the overhanging edge back over the top of the pie. Cut four slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush the surface of the pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle with a little more seasoning, if desired. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is a shiny deep golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Allow to cool five minutes, slice and enjoy

Easy Big Pot of Soup


INGREDIENTS 1 quart vegetable broth 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes 1 24-ounce bag frozen vegetables for stew 1 16-ounce bag frozen vegetables for gumbo 1 15.5-ounce can mixed beans for chili 1 11-ounce can corn 3 tablespoons thickener

Melt 12 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add one cup plus two tablespoons of all-purpose flour all at once and whisk vigorously until smooth. When the mixture thins and starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Cook five minutes, whisking slowly until the mixture smells nutty and toasty and is still lightly colored. Cool at least to room temperature before adding to hot liquids. This yields a bit more than one cup. The thickener stores well, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Heads-up: plan on thawing the frozen puff pastry sheets overnight or for at least six hours in the refrigerator. A refrigerated boxed pie crust can be substituted and doesn’t require any advanced planning. CRUST INGREDIENTS 1 package (17.3 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed in the refrigerator overnight 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Bring the water to a boil in a large soup pot over high heat. Add the vegetables, beans and corn. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the thickener and simmer for five minutes, stirring frequently.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Martha Hall Foose, the author of “Screen Doors & Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales of a Southern Cook,” won the James Beard Award for American Cooking. Her latest collaboration is “A Good Meal is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from the Deep South” with Amy C. Evans. Martha makes her home in the Mississippi Delta with her husband and son. She is a member of Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association.


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HAPPY Many years ago, a “must have” talk show guest this time of year would have been a psychic predicting things coming up in the new year. Some of their predictions were pretty funny. Perhaps the most famous psychic of the late 20th century was Jean Dixon. She predicted World War III would break out in 1958 and the Russians would be the first to land a human on the moon. My younger brother has been in broadcasting in Memphis for many years. He told me that one of those psychic telephone outfits was running ads on his radio station years ago and they called him while he was on the air and wanted to know when their next commercial was going to run. He told them, “You tell me…” I don’t think anyone in late 2019 could have possibly, in their wildest dreams, seen 2020 coming. What a ride! Here’s hoping that 2021 is the big change that we are counting on it to be. Back in the old days when you could still have big family gatherings for the holidays, Mama told me she preferred company at New Year’s rather than Christmas. I never asked her why. I suspect I knew. Christmas takes care of itself. Christmas is packed with plenty of trappings: food, lights, decorations, music, presents (if you’ve been good) and always people. But New Year’s was just a big blast at midnight followed by a huge black hole of the unknown. Company on New Year’s Day gave her something she could look forward to. No wonder people want predictions — they want to feel like they have some kind of grip on what’s coming next. Well, I’m not a psychic. But let me tell you what I hope is

coming up in 2021. I hope the vaccine works and people will take it. Let’s start getting the pandemic out of our lives and into the history books. I hope Mississippi will take advantage of some progressive legislation we set in motion in 2020 and build on it and take the rest of the country by surprise while they are still bickering over leftovers from 2020. Let’s woo some industry and educational opportunities here that never gave us a second glance before. Mainly, I hope all of us will rediscover the rich culture we have in Mississippi. Much of what the rest of the world sometimes takes credit for has roots in the hearts, souls and creativity of our people. Music and literature are good examples. The inspiration for that culture and art comes from where we live — both geographically and who we are individually. So, here’s to 2021. Hopefully, by the end of the year we will be using our face masks as dust rags and social distancing will go back to meaning how far you stay away from people you don’t get along with.

by Walt Grayson Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at



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