County government is one of the biggest businesses going in Pike County — sort of.
“If Pike County was a business, it would be a corporation with a $42 million budget,” new 3rd District Supervisor Robert Accardo told McComb Lions Club members Tuesday.
But, “in business, time is money,” he said. “Government doesn’t move so fast. I’m still getting used to that.”
Accardo went into office with varied business experience, having grown up and worked some in a family excavator business in St. Tammany Parish, La., before finding his way into real estate.
It was his business purchase of some property along the Bogue Chitto River that brought him and his wife to Pike County.
The property’s beauty and the making of friends in the area convinced the couple to make their home in Pike County after Hurricane Katrina hit southeastern Louisiana.
He jumped into local politics first by winning a seat on the county election commission in 2010 and serving two terms before deciding not to seek re-election in 2018.
Now he gets to make decisions on matters of county business, some of which were discussed in the last months of the previous term and deliberately left for the new board to consider.
That, Accardo said, was “totally appropriate.”
Thus, a county governing board with four new members out of five total gets to consider some pressing issues, including:
• Funding for Southwest Mental Health Complex, now operating as A Clear Path.
• Finding accommodations for the public defenders’ office.
• Possibly helping the North Pike School District pave a road that rings the campus.
• Considering whether to agree with the McComb city board’s appointment of Ed Silence to the airport board.
Accardo said he believes Pike County is the only government partner in the agreement backing funding for the mental health organization that is living up to the agreement.
Nevertheless, “we need to look hard at how we can fix this,” Accardo said. “Mental health is very important in our society.”
The county’s public defenders need a new home because the election commission — which shared space with the public defenders — received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to improve and better secure their building. Under the terms of the grant, only the election commission can occupy the building.
The supervisors were to consider Silence’s appointment this week, after the city resubmitted his name for consideration.
The North Pike campus road is becoming more pressing because the bond money remaining to be used for the road has to be used by mid-June.
“We are pro-education, and we want to help the schools in any way we can,” Accardo said.
He said that road and other proposed projects might be combined with other projects in bid solicitations to make the project more attractive to contractors.
He reiterated arguments from board meetings that other projects, such as the paving of Boone Road, have been waiting to be finished for months.
“How can we skip over those people?” he asked.
Various Lions Club members pointed out that North Pike is not just a school, but one of the larger employers in the county, and that the project would likely take three days at best.
They also noted that, while the often muddy, slick Boone Road may have been waiting a long time for its promised paving, many more North Pike employees and parents, and thus voters, use the campus ring road.
“That is another way to look at it,” Accardo agreed.
Overall, he said board members ran at least in part on increasing economic development, which relies in part on good schools and effective law enforcement.
Pike County has the transportation and utility facilities to support new industries, and should be buoyed by its status as a Work Ready Community, he said.
Plastics plants in the county have been expanding, and the timber and poultry industries remain strong. Meanwhile, the Scenic Rivers Development Alliance is boosting tourism in the area.
That gives the county a great deal of potential, he said.
“We came here to escape the rat race,” Accardo said. “It’s not perfect, but wherever you go, you can find problems to solve. This is a great place to be. Don’t ever sell Pike County short.”