Rant: Magnolia Civic Center

New Albany MS Rant Magnolia Civic Center
Control of New Albany's Magnolia Civic Center has moved to the Community Development/Tourism Department.
September 20th, 2019     Rants & Reason Blog

After long-festering dissatisfaction with the operations of the Magnolia Civic Center (MCC) The New Albany alderman decided it was time for a change.

One could reasonably say that the plot has thickened significantly since publication of NAnewsweb.com’s Monday, Sept. 16th, story about the MCC situation as it was discussed at the Sept. 10 meeting of the New Albany Board of Aldermen.

An intriguing facet of the Magnolia Civic Center story is that one – perhaps two – members of the MCC board may have been trying to promote a candidate for the MCC manager’s job well before Brittany Baker resigned under pressure.

Board member Cathy Garrett said during the Sept. 10th board meeting that former board president Phil Nanney was trying to get the MCC manager’s job for himself. Garrett said to the aldermen on September 10th, “Phil Nanney wrote it [the job description] for himself. He wanted that position for himself. We know that. Phil quit yesterday.”

We quoted exactly what she said in our story, published Sept. 16th. Yet, that same day at 6:16 p.m. she sent us a text message that said: “Not sure why you had to include what I said about Phil. Why add to an already tense situation?”
More interesting still is the fact that she had called us at 9:26 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, and during a 35-minute telephone conversation said, among many other things, that she had been trying to get the civic center manager’s job for her own daughter-in-law.

We didn’t ask her about it. She volunteered it.

She said that she and her husband, Mark Garrett, had put a lot of work, time and money into the civic center operation over many years, and that she did not think it was unreasonable for a member of their family to benefit by having the manager’s job.

We have since learned from multiple sources that Mrs. Garrett had been lobbying to get the job for her daughter-in-law for at least a few weeks. She seemed to us undaunted by the obvious conflict of interest involved in an MCC board member campaigning for the board to hire one of her own relatives.

Yet, she said at the Sept. 10 city board meeting that Phil Nanney was maneuvering to get the same job for himself. We have tried twice to call Mr. Nanney to ask him about it, but have not reached him. That’s not his fault. We should, perhaps, have tried harder. All we know about that is what Cathy Garrett alleged in the open meeting.

However, there is no doubt about Cathy Garrett trying to get the job for her daughter-in-law or about her accusation that Nanney wanted the same job.

Happily, it is not up to us to sort that out. There is little wonder that the Board of Aldermen sought and found a different solution for managing the Magnolia Civic Center going forward.

The aldermen moved the MCC manager’s salary from the control of the Magnolia Civic Center Board to the city’s Community Development and Tourism Department.

Effective October 1st, straightening out the MCC mess will be in the capable hands of Community Development and Tourism Director, Billye Jean Stroud. Stroud has more than proved her mettle in the year and a half she has run that operation. She is smart, energetic, decisive and plenty tough.

Stroud will figure it out and put the operations of MCC on a sound and harmonious basis. We believe she will have the strong support of the aldermen and mayor. The Civic Center Board’s new President, Clint Reid, and his fellow board members Justine Stewart, Amy Wilburn, David Joyner, Bradley Littlejohn and Cathy Garrett all have a great love for the civic center and the work that goes on there. They will appreciate the efficiency Stroud will bring to the physical and fiscal needs of the MCC.

The Magnolia Civic Center is one of New Albany‘s shining gems. It is not the personal play house of any one individual or group.

The facility itself belongs to the people of New Albany. The peoples’ elected representatives have put Billye Jean Stroud in charge. She must have free reign to do whatever is necessary to assure that this facility is a prized public asset many more years to come.

Back for a moment to Cathy Garrett: she is absolutely right that she and Mark have put an enormous of amount of sweat, time, passion and money into the civic center and the entertainment that thousands of us have enjoyed there for two decades. It’s not likely that the place would have survived this long without them. Knowing them and the good stuff they’re made of, one hopes, indeed expects, they will have a lot more fun “treading the boards” at the Cine’ for years to come. We look forward to it.

And finally, but by no means least importantly, a round of applause for Phil Nanney: Phil, with his late wife Sylvia, have done more for live entertainment in New Albany and Union County over many decades than any other ten people. He’s the best Master of Ceremonies in this part of the state. He is always ready to make mirth and music masterfully. When are we going to cast him as Falstaff?

The best years of the Magnolia Civic Center lie just ahead.

A letter of response from Phil Nanney:  Phil Nanney speaks  

More about the Magnolia Civic Center issue “I QUIT!”

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