Roses and thorns: 4-19-20




A rose to Columbus Mayor Robert Smith for his efforts to make sure grocery store patrons, as well as store employees abide not only to the spirit, but to the letter of city restrictions related to COVID-19. While grocery stores have been allowed to stay open, it's been clear that maintaining social distancing has often fallen by the wayside. To ensure the health of all involved, the mayor set new restrictions for the stores, including requiring all food store employees to wear masks and other protection gear while working within six feet of customers. Stores must also set up measuring markers and signage to remind customers to keep six feet from each other. Some stores had already taken some, if not all of these measures. Others had not. Columbus leadership has been pro-active in their response to COVID-19, and we applaud them for taking this and other preventative actions.



A rose of gratitude and remembrance for Lenore Prather, who will be known for breaking the glass ceiling on the Mississippi Supreme Court. Prather, a Columbus resident who grew up in West Point, died April 11 at her home. She was 88. Prather became the first woman to serve on the state's Supreme Court in 1982 when Gov. William Winter appointed her to the state's highest court. In 1998, she became chief justice, a role she held until her retirement in 2001. She served as interim president at Mississippi University for Women from July 2001 until June 2002. Her long career as an attorney and judge at several levels of the judiciary speaks to her qualifications while her ascension to the Supreme Court serves as an inspiration to young women in pursuit of a career in the judiciary. She left a legacy worthy of praise and emulation.




A thorn to the three members of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors who refused to open up the application process for the job of county administrator. Board President Harry Sanders, District 2 supervisor and newcomer to the board Tripp Hairston and District 3 supervisor John Holliman rejected a plea from District 5 supervisor Leroy Brooks to open the search. By a 3-2 vote, with Brooks and District 4 supervisor Jeff Smith dissenting, the board hired former CAFB vice wing commander Jay Fisher to replace Ralph Billingsley, who announced his resignation last month under pressure. Sanders defended the decision by saying, in effect, that's how the board has always handled openings on the county's administrative staff. Yet we can see no good reason why other candidates were not allowed to apply. This only further perpetuates the "Good Old Boy" perception the board should want to dismantle, especially in light of the forced resignation of Billingsley. No knock on Fisher or his credentials, but the manner in which the hire was made does nothing to change that perception.



A rose to Nikki McCray-Penson, who was named last week as the women's basketball coach at Mississippi State. McCray-Penson, who comes to MSU from Old Dominion, was not the candidate with the highest profile, but her credentials strongly suggest she is well-suited to step in the considerably large shoes left behind when Vic Schaefer left MSU to become head coach at Texas. An All-American player at Tennessee and All-WNBA player as a pro, McCray-Penson, 48, learned the coaching trade under South Carolina's Dawn Staley, helping the Gamecocks to a national championship in the process. In just three-plus seasons at ODU, McCray quickly elevated the Monarchs to national prominence. Those familiar with her say the Bulldogs' new coach demonstrates many of the same qualities that made Schaefer a much-beloved coach in Starkville. We believe McCray-Penson will prove to be a great fit with the Bulldogs. We welcome her arrival.




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