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Lott still the most potent voice in Mississippi

By Staff
Aug. 26, 2001
Sen. Trent Lott may have lost his powerful position as U.S. Senate Majority Leader when his friend Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont defected from the GOP, but don't be fooled: Lott still has the most potent voice on the Mississippi political scene.
He is so far and away the most capable public official in Mississippi today that, spoiled by the apparent ease with which he operates, we tend to forget how influential he really is. Or at least we are sometimes inclined to take his influence for granted.
The file cabinets of his senatorial office are filled with constituents' cases he's worked the vast majority of them successfully  from social security to veterans benefits to all sorts of problems people have with their federal government.
I could tell you about some of them, and may do just that in this space one of these days.
The nation's leaders still listen to him on national defense, the social issues of the day and just about anything else on which he cares to express a view. It would be an unfortunate mistake for his political opponents here in Mississippi or nationally to mistake the esteem in which he is held by voters.
Lott was in Meridian the other night as keynote speaker for the annual meeting of the East Mississippi Business Development Council. The occasion was planned as a tribute to EMBDC chairman Glen Deweese.
Chalk it up to overwhelming interest in EMBDC if you like, but it was Lott's acceptance of the keynote speech that pulled people away from NFL exhibition football and other casual pursuits and into a packed hall at the Frank Cochran Center. So many tickets were sold that the expected crowd quickly grew beyond the confines of the room at MSU-Meridian Campus where these kinds of things are usually held.
Any more interest and the event would've had to move to Meridian's largest venue Ray Stadium, where some 15,000 people can gather at one time.
Well, that may be a little exaggeration. But not much.
Lott was a welcome visitor to The Meridian Star newsroom shortly before his appearance at the EMBDC dinner. He chatted with some old friends and one former staffer (this writer) before heading out to the Cochran Center.
With all of the things he must have had on his mind, the one he talked about most was the imminent birth of another grandchild. Lott's daughter, Tyler, was very close to giving birth to her first child and Lott was equipped with a paging telephone in his pocket.
He quipped that if it went off  before or during his speech at EMBDC he might have to make a hasty exit.
As a young reporter for The Sun-Herald on the Mississippi Coast, I first met Lott in 1974 on the night he won his second term to the U.S. House of Representatives. During the ensuing 27 years, he, his wife, Tricia; son, Chet; and Tyler have become some of my favorite people.
His office has become "economic development central" for Mississippi due to his extensive reach as a national figure. Companies with an interest in locating in Mississippi are finding it necessary to make a stop there.
Lott is looking out for Mississippi's interests on many fronts. The comments he made at the EMBDC annual meeting about East Mississippi's prospects in economic development were well-received. It is likely that we'll see more of his presence in these parts.
Power' of the press
Despite grumbling by city officials over the fact that the sorry condition of Fire Station No. 2 made front page news last week, two of the most aggravating items have been repaired. Firefighters report a water leak and an overloaded electrical outlet have been fixed. They believe the story and photographs in The Meridian Star helped prompt city officials into action.
Why corrective action was not taken in the course of routine city operations is beyond my power of rational thought. The plain fact is that the whole station needs to be relocated and updated, not only for the benefit of the firefighters but also for the city residents they serve.
As for the grumbling, well, it just goes with the territory.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com.