September 4, 2013 9:46:16 AM
His diplomatic skills are often compared with those of Attila the Hun. He is not always averse to airing personal disputes in the public arena. He can come off as unyielding, even obstinate.
But those quirks should not obscure one thing we have come to know about Lowndes County District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders: He gets things done.
Tuesday, the board of supervisors selected two investment firms to manage the county's $30-million trust fund that came from the sale of the county hospital 12 years ago. The firms of Stephens Capital Management and Renasant Wealth Management will each manage $15 million.
That the county would be in position to put that $30 million to more effective use can be attributed almost exclusively to Sanders, who has been working on a way to increase investment income from the trust money for well over a year.
Until this year, state law prohibited county's from investing in anything other than certificate of deposits. For years, there was no objection to those limitation. You do not have to be an old-timer to recall at time when CDs produced returns of 5 percent or more.
That changed a few years ago as result of the Great Recession of 2008. Suddenly, investing in a CD was not much more profitable than sticking money in a mattress.
Last year, the county saw a return of just $60,000 on its CDs, which paid a rate of a measly 0.2 percent.
Sanders went to work. First, he asked the Legislature to change the law to allow the county to take part in tax sales, a move the Legislature ultimately rejected.
It might have ended there were it not for Sanders' trade-mark dogged persistence.
Finally, during the 2012 legislative session, Sanders, working with our area legislators, was able to convince the Legislature to ease the restrictions. State legislation allowing the county to create a reserve and trust fund for the hospital was passed as a means of providing more vehicles through which to invest the money.
The next step, which Sanders said would likely happen in October, is for the county to draft investment policy statements to have the firms sign. Those documents set parameters the firms operate under in terms of investment vehicles and are crucial to how much the county will benefit long term.
Some estimates suggest that the county could earn anywhere from 4 to 8 percent under the new rules, which would mean as much as $2.4 million in earnings. Though we should remember, with higher returns comes increased risk. While those estimates seem optimistic, there is little question that the county's investment will far exceed the .2 percent return it had previously earned.
You can thank the Legislature for that, of course. But the person most responsible for this change is the irascible board president, whose persistence should, quite literally, pay dividends for the county.