Partnering for Progress
Natchez mayor shares Extension’s community benefits
Story by Leah Barbour • Photo by Kevin Hudson
Natchez. Rich in history, beauty, and culture, it’s the oldest incorporated city on the Mississippi River. For Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell, giving back to the town where he was born and raised just makes sense.
“In terms of providing services to the community, I was always active. I was a professor of microbiology and genetics at Alcorn State University for 28 years, and, in 1997, I threw my name in the hat for county supervisor. In 2016, I was elected mayor,” Grennell remembers. “I’ve been working with the county Extension program for many years, and Extension is a real asset to the entire community.”
Mississippi State University Extension Service specialists, Adams County Extension agents, and local volunteers ensure Natchez residents have access to the most up-to-date innovations Extension can offer in its five major subject areas: 4-H, agriculture, natural resources, family and consumer sciences, and government and community development.
The Adams County Master Gardeners are using Extension expertise to save Natchez’s iconic crape myrtles from crape myrtle bark scale, an insect infestation that blackens the trees and reduces their blooms. Master Gardeners’ community investment reflects their concern for maintaining the beauty and history of their community, Grennell emphasizes.
The local Master Gardeners are forward-thinking, too, he says, because they are also organizing community gardens in area schools. By teaching young people how to grow their own fruits, herbs, and vegetables, Master Gardeners are helping the next generation develop life skills.
“The Adams County Master Gardeners have helped to take our community to a new level of aesthetics and beauty, and they are enhancing community unity and togetherness,” Grennell explains. Extension programs are bringing people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses to work together.”
Grennell considers how the local 4-H clubs identify young people who have demonstrated outstanding commitment. The accomplished 4-H’ers are invited to participate in 4-H’s community leadership program, which teaches tomorrow’s Natchez leaders about the issues specific to the town.
“The 4-H’ers get to explore our treasures and learn to understand our architecture and history,” Grennell says. “The young people are learning the leadership skills to make Natchez an even better place.”
Extension forestry experts work with Natchez tree producers to assess wood availability and report raw materials data to the Mississippi Economic Development Council. South Mississippi is a hub for tree production, Grennell affirms.
Furthermore, he shares, the Adams County Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers club holds regular outreach events to ensure that people who may be in need have the necessities of life. Grennell says their generous, caring attitudes make a difference in numerous residents’ lives.
Finally, Extension’s Center for Government and Community Development offers training programs for elected officials that enable them to complete their duties in line with state rules and regulations. Training programs are available for a range of elected and appointed city and county government offices, including for county supervisors, municipal clerks, tax assessors, and public utilities officials.
“Extension’s got the expertise in all these areas,” Grennell says. “It’s got the resources that communities need to enhance their services. Extension has effective ways of bringing these various groups together, whether it’s 4-H, Master Gardeners, or Homemaker Volunteers.
“Extension has a way of providing good structure and organizational skills to take care of business effectively; their systematic way of doing things works well. Extension’s people are top-notch.”