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Leaders to schedule joint county-city strategic planning session






Carl Smith



STARKVILLE -- Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer confirmed plans are in the works to bring together the county governing board and the Starkville Board of Aldermen together for at least one strategic planning session. 


Supervisors first broached the topic during their first October meeting, but aldermen have yet to discuss the issue. No dates have been set, but Trainer said officials have approached Phil Hardwick, a project manager at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University, to facilitate the meeting. 


Meetings between the county's big four entities - both boards, economic developers and Mississippi State University representatives - are staggered over the course of a year. This proposed strategic session, though, would be the first of its kind to bring together the two governing bodies. 


Trainer said a variety of topics - inter-local agreements, economic development opportunities, school consolidation issues and the county's overall direction - could be up for discussion, but specific agenda items and talking points remain unset. 


"Through the years, Starkville has always just been Starkville, and Oktibbeha County has just been the county. It needs to be us together, moving forward," he said. "There are a lot of different points of interest happening right now in our county. We need to move in the right direction to accomplish the greater good for all of our residents." 


Hardwick is no stranger to moderating strategic planning sessions in the Golden Triangle. He previously helped Starkville School District stakeholders outline goals and expectations as the district tackled its own long-term planning sessions this spring. Tuesday, the Columbus City Council scheduled a Dec. 5, Hardwick-led retreat at the Plymouth Bluff Center.  


"He's one of the foremost people in (economic development) in the state of Mississippi. I just honestly believe we'll get our money's worth from him," Columbus Councilman Charlie Box said Tuesday. "He'll help us understand, perhaps, where we've been, bring us forward and take a look at where we need to go." 


Before joining the Stennis Institute in 2003, Hardwick served as vice president of community and economic development at Mississippi Valley Gas Company. He is a past president of the Mississippi Association of Partners in Education, the Mississippi Main Street Association, the Mississippi Economic Development Council and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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