The Jackson City Council's first meeting of 2013 was fairly typical in many respects, except for one important detail: the location. The January 8th meeting, which was held in the Millsaps Recital Hall, marked the first time in the City Council's history to meet outside the chambers of City Hall.
Click to view a slideshow from the City Council Meeting at Millsaps
The idea for the special Millsaps City Council meeting originated last fall in conversations between Millsaps President Rob Pearigen and Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell. Among other things, the Millsaps Council meeting was designed to strengthen relationships with leaders in local government and to provide Millsaps students an opportunity to see government in action - all in the spirit of the College's Strategic Plan "Across the Street and Around the Globe: Partnerships and Influence at Millsaps College."
By all accounts, the City Council visit met and exceeded expectations. President Pearigen explained, "Holding the City Council meeting at Millsaps was a win-win arrangement for the College and the Council. We benefited from having the opportunity to share the Millsaps story with local leaders, and our students profited greatly from observing local government in such a hands-on way. I believe the Council was happy to reach a different audience than usual by meeting at Millsaps, and I also think they were genuinely pleased to learn about Millsaps' commitment to civic engagement here in Jackson."
The City Council offered high praise for the special Millsaps meeting as well. City Council President Tony Yarber, who represents Ward 6, enthusiastically reported, "The genesis of a deep and meaningful partnership with Millsaps College was the greatest outcome of the first Jackson City Council meeting of 2013. Our City's future just became brighter!" Ward 3 Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes presented a $1,000 gift to the College on behalf of her brother Larry Cooper, who graduated from Millsaps in 1985. The Jackson City Clerk Brenda Pree, who typically organizes City Council meetings, was so pleased with the Millsaps meeting that she told one of the Millsaps organizers, "We hope to make our visit to your beautiful campus a yearly event."
Millsaps students also benefited directly from the Council meeting. Even though spring semester classes did not begin until the day after the Council's visit, many students attended the meeting, including several who arrived early to meet one-on-one with Mayor Harvey Johnson and Council President Tony Yarber. In order to help students better understand how government works, members of the City Council periodically paused their official business to explain to members of the audience, especially students, the history and implications of their deliberations. The Council outlined, for example, the process required by the U.S. Department of Justice for re-drawing Jackson's voting precinct boundaries following the most recent national census.
Millsaps senior Grace Williams noted the educative value of the Council meeting, stating, "As a typically idealistic liberal arts college student, I - as, I imagine, many of my peers - have found it easy to dismiss local and state leadership as ineffective, or even incompetent, based on various personal experiences or news items. Getting to see the Council in action helped me realize the complexities of the political process in a more tangible way than I had before."
In addition to the public meeting, Dr. Pearigen hosted a private lunch on campus for members of the City Council. During the lunch, Dr. Pearigen and other administrators shared with the Council details of Millsaps' Strategic Plan, including information about various programs and initiatives designed to connect and re-connect with Jackson and Mississippi.