Andy West, information officer for the nine-county district of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, shared highlights from his career at the September meeting of the Center Hill Community Development Club.
West, who graduated from school on Aug. 8, 1998, entered the Academy for the Highway Patrol in Pearl on Oct. 4 of that same year. Upon his graduation from the academy, he was sent to Aberdeen to begin his career in law enforcement.
He said he remembers well a short time when he was assigned to the radio room of the central office in Meridian during the winter of '98, before heading to Aberdeen. There was a big snow storm blanketing the area. He sat down in a chair and it was wet. A nearby officer commented that they had a leaky roof.
Fast forward 10 years. West was in the radio room again. There was a bucket on the floor catching the dripping water from the same leak!
The nine-county district includes 20 officers assigned to a specific county. Working 12-hour shifts, only 10 officers are on duty at a time patrolling nine counties.
"(Pressing) Star 47 will get you directly to the highway patrol switchboard," West said.
He said a frequently asked question is why the much-needed new facility was built "way out there."
"The answer is simple," West said. "There were simply no funds to purchase property in a more accessible location. The property the $4 million facility is built on was donated to the highway patrol."
The new building is for public use. Officers who patrol the nine-county district see the building approximately every four weeks for a district meeting.
"One service we offer that many folks are not aware of is disposal of old, unneeded or out-of-date medications," he said "We have a vault they are put into for disposal."
West asked the members what they thought was the hardest part of his job. Various answers were given, such as accidents where children were involved.
"All the answers mentioned are difficult situations, but it becomes part of the job," he said. "For me, the hardest part of my job is death notifications."
West recalled a recent accident where a Lucedale man was killed in an accident on his way to work at the lignite plant. The family was at the accident scene when he arrived and he had to inform his young wife, parents and other family that it was a fatality, he said.
West asked the club members to remember that there is no such thing as a "routine traffic stop," especially in today's society. He said the most often heard complaint about the highway patrol officer is they are rude and uncaring.
"Please remember that the officer approaching your car does not know who you are or what you may be thinking." he said. "Just recently, a young man was pulled over and arrested for DUI. In searching his vehicle after his arrest, he had a loaded .22 between his truck seats, a load automatic under his seat and a rifle behind the seat.
"Perception is reality in the eyes of the public," West said.
A question-and-answer period followed the presentation.
Center Hill CDC President Robin Doerner opened the meeting with the following quote: "Prayer. It is the key of the morning and the lock of the evening."
After welcoming members and guest to the meeting, Doerner asked, "What does a key do? It locks and unlocks. Starting your day off with prayer unlocks all the possibilities of another glorious God given day. Prayer at the end of the day locks your mind and soul leaving it in God's embrace for your time of rest."
Devotion was presented by Brother Wallace Terry, who read a selection from "Seeds From the Psalms" titled "What Kind of Love Is This?" (Readers who enjoy these devotions can check out the website www.sowerministries.org)
"'You know how much I love you, Josie. More than anyone or anything in the world!" began his text message. "Can't wait until I see you this evening. Will be there if I don't go to the ball game with Rob. Love, Steve,'" Terry read.
"It didn't take Josie long to erase the message and text her friend Ruth asking if they could get together for dinner. She had trouble understanding that kind of love. And so does God. We say one thing to Him and then live a life that is entirely inconsistent with His understand of love and what He expects us to do if we love Him.
"You who love the Lord," said the Psalmist, "hate evil!" That is a very straight forward, simple statement. It is one of scriptures' if/then challenges that God puts in our pathway. Put another way, we might ask, 'If we don't hate evil can we truly love God? And, if we hate evil, how will our lives show those around us that we do?'
"Loving God means that we will do whatever is necessary to align ourselves with His plan and purpose for His world," Terry said. "We will work with Him to reach out to those around us with a heart full of His love to show them His grace and mercy. We will be uncomfortable if we know of someone, somewhere who needs something that we have that we can share with them that will bring hope and healing to their lives.
"People who lie abandoned in convalescent homes and children who are abused through no fault of their won and individuals who crave a smile and a hug need to know that 'we love the Lord.' They will if we reach out."
After the devotion, Terry offered a prayer and blessing.
A potluck supper held prior to the meeting.
During the business session, Katherine Daniels reported a good crowd at a recent senior citizens meeting. A potluck lunch and Bingo are available to them every third Wednesday at the club house.
Stanley Lucky's safety presentation was about brush fires.
"Everything is green now but it will come a time in the near future where the grass will be dry and highly flamable, Lucky said. "One thing not often thought about is parking your vehicle in an area where the grass is high and is against the vehicle's catalytic converter. Catalytic converters get extremely hot and can easily cause dry grass to catch fire."
Cathy Clearman cautioned members to be on the lookout for snakes, citing a recent incident where her grandson killed a rattlesnake crossing the driveway at a neighbor's house
Jamie West was welcomed as a guest.
Yard of the Month honors were presented to Bennie and Pat Graham. The yard is very noticible and features a row of rose bushes along the front. It also has a pond with a moat beside it that is the new home for the ducks that once inhabited the pond at Highland Park in Meridian. They are alive and well and one has had several sets of ducklings.
The meeting adjourned with the Pledge of Allegiance.
• Submitted by Cathy Clearman, secretary.