Relocated New Yorker calls Brookhaven ‘the best-kept secret in America’

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Native New Yorker Jessica Kleeman calls Brookhaven “the best-kept secret in America.”

Kleeman was born and raised in Albany, New York. More than two years ago, she told her husband she wanted a change.

“I couldn’t stand the snow and the cold anymore,” Kleeman said. “I told him, ‘We’ve got to move south.’”

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Kleeman’s husband Darris works for Love’s Travel Stops and he requested to be transferred to the south. Mississippi wasn’t their first choice, or their second. It was their fourth.

“I actually had to go look on the map where it was,” Kleeman said.

They packed up their two kids and their belongings into two U-Haul trucks and made the nearly 1,400-mile drive to Brookhaven. As they entered Lincoln County Kleeman noticed the Brookhaven train car, located on I-55 before exit 42.

“And that was the first thing I saw,” Kleeman said.

Her husband picked their house over Facetime with their realtor.

“My husband did good. Our realtor did good,” Kleeman said. “As soon as I walked in I felt warm.”

Not long after they arrived, Kleeman said neighbors were knocking on the door giving her casseroles and baked goods.

“I cried every time. We didn’t get that in New York,” Kleeman said.

She thought there would be alligators and swamps, but she said it was better than she imagined.

“It felt like Wisteria Lane — everything was perfect,” Kleeman said.

Their first event as Brookhaven residents was the Fourth of July block party at Storm Avenue.

“As I walked on the street, I thought, ‘What is going on?’” Kleeman said. “I thought they were filming a movie. I knew Brookhaven was our home, but that sunk it in.”

She said the Christmas parade made her feel like she was in a Hallmark movie.

“I sobbed at the Christmas parade,” Kleeman said. “People kept asking me if I was OK.”

While the Kleemans don’t have family in Brookhaven, she said they’ve made lots of close friends.

“And they feel like family,” Kleeman said. “No one is going to give up on you, even if you’re a hot mess, they’ll be a hot mess with you.”

Her favorite thing about Brookhaven is when downtown lights up at night.

“I’ll hop in the car and come down here and just look at the lights,” Kleeman said. “You can do it all year round. The lights are always on, and not one lightbulb is out on these buildings.”

Besides finding a home in Brookhaven, Kleeman said she also found God.

“I didn’t go to church in New York,” Kleeman said. “I had some friends reach out and bring me to church. And it was just so accepting, I was a nonbeliever. That was a big thing for me. Now I have Jesus. How did I get through life without Him?”

For anyone who is considering moving to the area, Kleeman would be the first one to welcome them with open arms.

“Brookhaven, Mississippi, is the best-kept secret in America,” Kleeman said. “And I’m telling the secret, because I want everyone to know, too. I would have never guessed this town would have been so good to us.”