McComb city officials heard from a group of interested candidates for hospital and school board positions, including newcomers and incumbents, during Tuesday night’s work session.
Longtime hospital board member Renan Richmond, said he will retire from the board after two decades of service.
Richmond’s resignation comes at the end of terms for both he and Watkins “Noggin” Wild, who is asking to be reappointed.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the city board for my previous appointments to the hospital board,” Richmond said. “It is the backbone of the McComb economy. Please give thoughtful consideration to your appointments. It is very important.
“Mr. Mayor and select-men, I thank you for my time in the past. I look forward to doing what I can but due to personal circumstances I need to retire.”
Mayor Quordiniah Lockley thanked Richmond for his service to the city during his tenure.
Richmond urged the board to reappoint Wild.
Wild, a Realtor who has served on the hospital board for three terms, said he loved his work on the board and wanted to continue, calling the hospital the biggest economic driver for the city.
“My desire to serve on the board has nothing to do with personal gain,” Wild said. “It is a desire to serve our city, serve our hospital and make sure it operates at the highest standards that we can make it operate. That is our main mission as trustees.”
Pleasant Grove East McComb Baptist Church and South Pike High School basketball coach Hilton Harrell also asked to be considered for one of the hospital board seats.
“It is important that we have good health care in our city. Healthcare and hospitals ... are going from volume-based to value-based, and we need more value than volume,” Harrell said. “We need to look at what we are doing in our community and the needs of it. Not only that, but also financial stability. We need to keep our tax dollars here.”
Jason Van, a third-generation business owner who serves on the city’s planning commission and architectural review committee, asked to be considered for appointments to the hospital and school boards as well.
“I am interested in seeing our hospital has good leadership. I want to make sure there are sufficient people prepared to serve,” he said.
Dr. Thomas Jeffcoat, a longtime orthopedic surgeon, also expressed his interest in the hospital board, calling it and the school district his reasons for moving to McComb.
“I came here for two reasons — one, because of the hospital, and two, the school,” he said. “I have been supporting the hospital ever since. I have had a chance to go elsewhere, but I didn’t want to leave. I love this place. I think that being on the hospital board, I could see how things work and help in a lot of ways.”
Monica Dillon asked to be appointed to both the hospital board and the school board, noting she is heavily involved in parent-teacher associations in the schools.
“I am currently a director of a health care organization. I am working on my doctorate. I want to be on this hospital board because I know first hand, starting at the bottom, so I know what it takes to be the person that is the first line of defense for these patients,” she said. “I want to be on that board, so we can show that we have to come together collectively to make sure the patients have everything they need from the bottom up.
“I just want to continue helping out with the school district. I am very hands on. I am ready to step in and do whatever I need to do.”
Lockley noted that because the board’s work session was at the same time as a school board’s meeting, the trustee whose term is expiring, Betsy Murrell, could not attend. But she has expressed her interest in staying on the school board.
Upon learning Murrell wanted to be reappointed, Van, along with Matt Codding, withdrew their bids for the school board.
Billie Jean Easton, who recently moved to McComb, continued her bid, noting that the work she does volunteering on the parent-side of the school system.
“Since my arrival here I have become active in the school district. I am very passionate about seeing progression and excellence in the schools, and I demand excellence from my children, so I want to pass my passion along to the other students,” she said. “There could be a little change in the district to help move forward.”
Julius Nash of Summit, who ran unsuccessfully for an elected position on the school board, said he was seeking the appointed seat. He said he, his children went to McComb High and he has grandchildren in the school system.
“The reason I want to be on the school board is so I can help improve the school district. I am committed to public education, and I am committed to the community,” he said.
Nash is also running for the Summit town council.
Lockley said he doesn’t think Nash’s Summit residency qualifies him for an appointment from McComb.
“I am of the opinion that he should not be appointed, but I am not an expert in that,” he said. “If you live in the outside area you have a representative, and I feel the other appointees should come from city limits.”
Lockley said he would speak with board attorney Angela Cockerham to see if Nash is eligible.
Evelle Dillon, originally of New Orleans, said she wants to help the school become better, noting that the system is “losing teachers by the handful” and has continually ranked low in state assessments.
“I have not only participated in events at the school, but I have raised thousands of dollars for the school, especially the athletic department,” she said. “I want to be on the school board because I think the present school board that we have is not supporting the kids and the parents as a whole. and it is time for a change. Not for us, but for the children.”
The city board is expected to vote on the school and hospital positions next week.