Birney Imes: Sparks fly

March 13, 2010 11:33:00 PM

Birney Imes - birney@cdispatch.com

 

Eunice Pruitt, welder 

 

Eunice Pruitt has been obsessive about welding since he was 6 years old. 

 

"I''d go into a gym and look at the welds in the stands and up at the beams in the ceiling," he said. "I''ve always been fascinated with welding." 

 

Pruitt''s first hands-on experience with the craft that would become his life''s work came years later in a vocational education course at Macon High School. By the time he graduated the hook was set. 

 

Eunice, by the way, was the name of his mother''s best friend''s boyfriend. Pruitt considered getting rid of the feminine moniker when he enlisted in the Army after high school. Upon hearing the news of the pending change, Pruitt''s mother weighed in: "The name is not what makes the person. It''s the person that makes the name." 

 

Pruitt stayed Eunice and ended up in Ft. Hood, Texas where as a member of the Second Armored Division, he repaired tanks and where he encountered names stranger than his. 

 

After the Army, he''d planned to go the Mississippi State and study engineering, but, as it often does, marriage changed those plans. He took a course in fabricating at East Mississippi Community College; from there he went straight into a job at Mitchell Engineering, the metal building manufacturer which later became Ceco. After a lay-off and a stint working on the Tenn-Tom Waterway in Aberdeen, Pruitt took a job at Beloit-Manhattan, where he worked 18 years. 

 

Pruitt says he was never bothered much by the lay-offs. 

 

"That''s the thing about welding," he says, "it''s not hard to find a good job. Even with the economy bad, you can go down on the Coast and find you a good job." 

 

In the late 80s Pruitt and his wife, Doris, bought a place in the bend of Pickensville Road just on the east side of Greenhill Bridge. Their house fronts on Pickensville Road and the shop is in back. A distinctive sign announcing his business and showcasing his skill can be seen there in the bend. 

 

Pruitt says he works dawn to dusk in the metal building that serves as his shop. There and on location, he makes handrails, fabricates stairways and repairs heavy equipment. 

 

Pruitt''s work can be seen around town. He replicated a set of antebellum handrails for Dick Leike''s White Arches and he just finished a beautiful, but simple set of handrails for a renovation project for Annis Cox. 

 

"He did a super job for us," Leike said. 

 

My brother Gene is a Pruitt client. 

 

"He does stuff for me all the time," Gene said, "cattle gaps, grills out of stainless, everything I need to do as far as metal work, he''s it. He''s a great welder." 

 

Pruitt says the best thing about working for himself is that he gets to meet his customers, build relationships. He''s built his business through word of mouth. He credits Military Hardware for a lot of his business and "Mr. Sammy Platt who told all his friends when I started out they had to do business with me." 

 

At 55, Pruitt says he''s slowed his work schedule some, but when the job demands it, he works Saturdays and into the night. He has no plans to retire. 

 

"I''ll probably be welding until they put me in the ground, or close to it, anyway." 

 

 

 

Harry Sanders, Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President 

 

What hasn''t been said about the Harry Sanders resignation as pres of the board of supervisors? Sanders'' critics in our blogs portray him as the spoiled kid on the playground who, not getting his way, takes his toys and goes home. Granted, Harry is a stubborn kind of fellow, but the story is not that simple. 

 

According to Sanders, fellow supervisors, Leroy Brooks and Frank Ferguson, had virtually stopped speaking to him, Brooks only when needed and Ferguson altogether. Ferguson had been giving him the silent treatment since June, said Sanders. 

 

As president of the board, Sanders has played an integral role in the county''s economic development, which entails a lot more than simply being District 1 Supervisor. In a phone conversation Saturday afternoon, Sanders said he told Link CEO Joe Higgins a month ago he was thinking of resigning. 

 

Some have argued Harry should have soldiered on in the president''s job. 

 

"When things are unacceptable you don''t have to accept it, Sanders said. "The way things were going it was unacceptable." 

 

For a few days Ferguson and the three remaining supervisors considered who would be Sanders'' successor. Neither Holliman nor Ferguson wanted the job and clearly neither of them thought much of a Brooks-led board. The obvious choice for the job was ... Sanders. 

 

Ferguson through an intermediary contacted Sanders. The two men drove to Starkville for lunch and patched up their differences. On the way to lunch Ferguson told Sanders he hadn''t meant for things to get as far as they did. Sanders said he asked Ferguson to apologize for calling him a crude name at a Republican Women''s luncheon. Ferguson refused to apologize. 

 

Sanders said he told Ferguson, "Look, I''m not going to hold a grudge; it''s your problem not mine." 

 

Sanders also made it clear to Ferguson he wasn''t going to take the presidency back unless some sense of civility was restored. 

 

"You can nominate me, but I''m not going to second it. If you get a second, I''ll go along with it," he says he told Ferguson. 

 

At the special meeting, Ferguson nominated Sanders for president; Holliman seconded the motion and Sanders went along, voting for himself. 

 

After an 8-day hiatus, Sanders was back at the head of the table. 

 

"As far as I''m concerned, it''s a dead issue," Ferguson said Saturday afternoon. "It was a personal thing that got off base." 

 

"I think things are going to get better," Sanders said. 

 

Brooks predictably has cried racism, subtly in a video interview on The Dispatch Web site, less so on City Councilman Kabir Karriem''s radio show, a venue in which Brooks has free reign. Brooks complains that whites have never put blacks at the head of the board table, conveniently ignoring Sanders'' predecessor, Joe Brooks, a black man who became board president with white support. 

 

Brooks'' repeated squawking about racism rings hollow and only re-enforces the widely held sentiment he would be a disaster as board president, a position he has coveted for years. 

 

All of that said, this boardroom strife is not only childish, it is a blight on the county. To carry on this way is the height of arrogance. Lost is the idea that these guys are supposed to be public servants there to do the bidding of the taxpayers. Be it screaming racism when things don''t go your way, name calling or not speaking to a fellow supervisor, it''s all unacceptable. 

 

Fellows, you''re making us all look bad.

Birney Imes III is the Editor and Publisher of The Dispatch.