Mayor, students share lunch hour Q&A session: Kids pitch questions to city leader
Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox may have faced his most formidable audience yet – preschoolers, junior high students, and a senior set to graduate in May. On Wednesday, a group of area homeschoolers passed the salt and peppered him with questions during a “Lunch and Learn” event at the Lincoln County Library.
“Quite an age range,” the mayor noted while scanning the crowd before his introduction. Declining a podium, he pulled out a chair and his reading glasses, then quickly found some common ground with third-graders like Blake Dickerson. “I’ve been learning a lot lately, too,” the first-term politician admitted.
Mayor Cox went on to share a brief history of Brookhaven, as well as the demands of the office he has filled since July.
“I have degrees in chemistry and biology,” Cox told the students, “but it’s my business background that has come in handy. The city has 160 employees
and a budget, just like a business. It’s my job to oversee them all.”
He also took time to describe how a mayor/council form of government works, emphasizing that all the officials try to get along well for the betterment of the city.
To explain the competitive nature of economic development, Cox shared a story related to Yokohama Tire Corp.’s move to Northeast Mississippi.
“One city’s officials took all their vehicles to the shop and changed out their tires. Everybody came rolling up to the big meeting with Yokohamas,” the mayor remembered.
While younger audience members seemed content to polish off what was left of their sandwiches, upper classmen had Cox fielding questions about what he sees as Brookhaven’s biggest problem (jobs), his favorite part of being mayor (interaction with city personnel), and whether there may be a future for the old hospital facility located on South Jackson (yes).
Seventeen-year-old Breann Stringer wanted to know more about the storm shelter she passes on her way to the city’s sports complex. Cox provided the details, suggesting the site, with walls built to withstand 200-mile-per-hour winds, might be worthy of a group field trip.
When asked what he found most interesting about the mayor’s comments, Cory Alderman, 16, answered that he enjoyed “hearing him talk about attracting new businesses.”
Melissa Lester, whose two sons took part in the dialogue, said she felt the event was important because it allowed students to interact with a public official. “It’s also helped them learn to ask questions in a clear, concise way,” she added.
The final question to come from the floor regarded Cox’s future political ambitions. “You don’t take this job to get re-elected,” he answered. “You take it to see what you can do. I wanted to make a difference. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
The session concluded with Cox again stressing the importance of maximizing Brookhaven’s ability to compete for new businesses. He told students, “We want to create jobs that you can come home to when you finish college and begin your careers.”