By NEMS Daily Journal
Gregg Kennedy is a a lifelong resident of Smithville and is serving in his third term as mayor of the town of 900 in Monroe County. Much of Smithville was devastated by an EF-5 tornado on April 27 that killed 16 people.
Kennedy, and his wife, Susan, have three children, Thomas, 25, Kara, 23 and Ben, who turns 21 on Monday. All live at home.
Kennedy spoke with Associate Publisher Charlie Langford about how the town is recovering.
Q: How would you assess the town’s progress so far in terms of both the physical rebuilding and the emotional recovery?
A: As far as the physical cleanup, it’s getting ahead of schedule. The contractor is running wide open. The emotional recovery is slow. We had another victim pass away (Friday) in Columbus – the former mayor’s wife, Maxine Chism. That’s going to be a setback, especially to the older residents who remember Mayor Earnest Chism. I served as his vice mayor.
Q: What particular needs do the town and its citizens have that haven’t received much attention?
A: The U.S. Postal Service has been a disappointment. They have turned their back on us. They claim there is a security risk. Those in the affected area who have post office boxes are having to drive to Amory every day to get their mail. We’ve got a temporary bank that’s opening Monday; why can’t we have a temporary post office? All the other government agencies have worked really well with us – the Corps of Engineers, MEMA, FEMA – all of them. All the volunteer groups have been great, too. I can’t complain about any of them.
Q: Describe some of the most unexpected but meaningful offers of help you’ve received in the last three weeks.
A: A lot of people have come to help after seeing us on CNN, Fox News and the NBC Nightly News. They’ve come from Canada and all the way down to the southern United States. The most meaningful is all the other towns and cities from the Mississippi Municipal League. The towns and their mayors and their outpouring of support have been overwhelming – especially the city of Amory, the city of Tupelo, the city of Columbus and all the others. We just want to let them know that the thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated and the donations, we will never be able to – and nobody wants us to – repay them. It’s just Southern hospitality.