Posted on Apr 22, 2019
Our thanks to award-winning syndicated columnist, Sid Salter for providing our program last Tuesday. We were also joined by Hattiesburg General Surgeon and college roommate of Mr. Salter's, Dr. John Brahan.
Photo left: Club President, Steven Utroska and Sid Salter. Photo right: Mr. Salter and Dr. John Brahan.
President Steven Utroska presided over today’s meeting. Jerome Brown gave today’s invocation. Chris Dunkley led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Thanks to Mark Killingsworth who served as our greeter today.
Brandon Hodges thanked those who helped with today’s meeting and introduced our guests. Paula Brahan has her husband John as her guest. Jerome Brown has Tom Smith as his guest and Bill McLeod has Matthew Regale as his guest.
Steven thanked reminded members that the April 30th meeting will be canceled, as will all the other 5th Tuesday meetings for the remainder of this year. He also encouraged members, especially new members, to sign up for the Meals on Wheels program. Tracie Fowler with the United Way of Southeast Mississippi has a project grant of $1,000 available. Steven plans to ask the Program Committee to look into this grant opportunity. Hopefully, the club can match the grant.
Paula Brahan then introduced today’s guest speaker, Sid Salter. Sid is currently the Chief Communications Officer and Director of the Office of Public Affairs at Mississippi State University. He has been a columnist since the late 1970s. His syndicated columns have been published in Mississippi and several national newspapers since 1983.
Sid said he is speaking to our club today as private citizen Sid Salter, not in his position with Mississippi State University. Being a private citizen is the single most important office to hold, according to Salter.
In 2018 Mississippi added 51,006 new jobs. Between July 2017 and July 2018, we had 24 million visitors in our state. That is up 800,000 over the previous year. Tourism is responsible for $7 billion to our state’s economy.
Although we’ve made substantial progress in recent years, our state is still the poorest in the nation. We have more unhealthy people per capita than any other state in the union. We still have pockets of poverty and are having to deal with several food deserts. There are some counties in our state that still suffer from a 22% unemployment rate.
Salter says the four primary issues in a 1975 gubernatorial campaign he worked in were education, health care, roads, and taxes. He says the same four issues remain today. However, he predicts that we will not hear many solutions to those problems during the upcoming election because the politicians will be focusing on attaching each other to national candidates in either party.
The 2019 election cycle will be a busy one, according to Salter. Twenty-one percent of the Senate seats will turn over for a variety of reasons. Nine percent of the House delegation will change, and six of the eight statewide elected officials will be replaced.
Mississippi still spends less on our students in public education than any other state in the union. Our teachers are the lowest paid in the nation. We have many community colleges of various sizes and eight institutions of higher learning, two of which struggle to maintain enrollment and adequate resources. In the meantime, Salter says our students are cobbling together an education that fits their needs and the needs of their families. They are using online universities and other resources to earn their education. He says we need to better facilitate those efforts because our state needs a higher trained workforce.
Many Mississippians remain uninsured or under-insured. Because of the economic stress these individuals put on the existing health care system, many of our rural hospitals have closed or closed a portion of their hospital.
Our roads continue to deteriorate, according to Salter, because we have an antiquated system to pay for road repairs. The gas tax which is used to fund road repairs no longer generates enough revenue to make the necessary repairs, much less construct new highways.
Taxes continue to be an issue in Mississippi. Salter notes that without adequate funding for education, health care, and roads, we pay the price in ways other than taxes.
Steven thanked our speaker and then adjourned the meeting with our motto, "Service Above Self."