#1,267 Laurel Is.
by Erin Napier
This is what today looked like:
9:30—12:00 — church
12:00 — 1:30 — retirement pot luck party for our preacher
1:30—3:30— Napier family reunion day 2, drive to and from Collins
4:00—6:00 — A breather. Dog walking, clothes washing, campaign listmaking, report writing for church council meeting tonight.
6:00—8:00— the BIG twice-yearly church council meeting. Gave a report on supper club and the new church logo design, Ben talked about a whole bunch of different things.
8:00—11:00—campaign strategy for tomorrow and Tuesday with Josh and Emily
And now here we are. I hear Ben running a bath for me (with epsom salts! I’ve never tried them!) and I wanted to leave y’all with his op-ed that was in the newspaper yesterday that got tons of positive feedback today. It’s about why he loves our city even when it seems unpopular among the generation that’s older than us. Can’t tell y’all how proud I am of him. My cup overflows.
I would choose to run for the Ward 5 city council seat. The truth is, it’s
because Laurel stole my heart and God pointed me here. This is a town that
should be an easy sell to anyone, and yet, we’re not selling it.
was…” is a phrase I hear a lot. Laurel was
a great school, Laurel was a great town, and Laurel was an industrial capital.
My wife, Erin, and I use old style and new technology
interchangeably. We own an internationally acclaimed, internet-based wedding invitation company from a loft in downtown Laurel. She works with clients all
over the world through email and cell phones from a building that was built in
the early 1900s, and we sell them vintage-style design printed by hand on a
letterpress from the turn of the century. Her sleek metal iMac sits on an oak
desk from the 1940s that our church needed to get rid of for more space. I have
driven to the homes of constituents introduced through facebook and an
email-saturated campaign in my 1962 Chevy pickup. We like to see old things, sure,
but we like using them even more. Why have something old if you’re not going to
use it and take care of it?
Laurel is an old city that we have stopped using
and taking care of. I recently discovered an article by Jon Odell called City in a Bubble—a fascinating story about the
beginnings of our city. Laurel was a town formed from nothing into an
industrial, cultural, and educational beacon of hope in the state of
Mississippi. The history reveals that people here have always gone against the grain. Jones County developed revolutionary educational systems and social
development practices at a time when the rest of the state seemed to be going
backward. What happened?
“Our Yankees,” as Odell calls our
founders, are no longer here to foot the bill. He’s right about that, but what
they left behind is just as powerful as their pocketbooks. Laurel, Mississippi
brings in almost as much sales tax revenue each month as the city of Biloxi.
Biloxi promotes their casinos and beaches and restaurants shamelessly; yet,
they barely outdo little ole Laurel. We have an untapped tourism resource
unlike any other small town in Mississippi. We claim the first art museum in
the state, parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the first lighted football stadium, Oak Park, the birthplace of Masonite, the home of Leontyne Price, the
home of Ralph Boston, the Lindsey wagon—history that could draw people from all
over the world to stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, shop in our
stores. Who knows? If we would stop making excuses for our city’s shortfalls
and actively promote her instead, I suspect other major corporations would put
down roots in the town where Masonite, Howard industries, Sanderson Farms,
Laurel Machine and Foundry, and ThermoKool call home. Private investment made
this city and it’s what will keep her beautiful and economically strong.
Laurel has a very rich past,
rivaling so many of the great Southern towns I’ve visited that you can read
about in the pages of travel magazines. There is a connection to the arts,
music, and culture unlike any place I’ve been. Laurel was founded as an
industrial center and continues to show its strength worldwide. It’s time we
stop talking about what Laurel was, and start telling people what Laurel is. We
need to bring new business, new industry, new families, and new ideas to this
city. I am proud of what Laurel was, but I’m excited about what Laurel is and could be.
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I’m Erin Napier, co-owner of Laurel Mercantile Co. and Scotsman Co. with my husband, Ben. I’m an artist and he’s a craftsman and we help people moving to our town find and restore old houses on HGTV’s Home Town. In an effort to count my blessings, this journal has documented only the good things that happen on each and every day of my life since January 1, 2010. I am a wife, a daughter, a homebody, a bubble bath lover, a book reader, a sentimental, stressed out, slightly obsessive southerner. Welcome!