Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles about new and returning mayors of Columbia County towns that will be published during the next several days.
When Parnell Vann is sworn into the office of mayor of Magnolia on Saturday, January 1, he wants citizens to realize he will be only one component of solving problems and addressing complaints.
"When someone calls City Hall with a complaint, I want them to be thinking of how to help solve the problem. I don't want to be the complaint catcher," Vann said. "It is going to take us all to straighten out Magnolia."
Vann, who says he loves Magnolia because of the people who live here, said he thinks people will enjoy having him as the mayor because he is straightforward and says he does not know how to give something a political spin.
Vann grew up in Magnolia. He began working in hayfields when he was 12 years old.
Vann defeated Councilman Sam Whitelaw in a run-off election on November 23 and replaces Lane Jean, who has served as Magnolia's mayor for the past 16 years. Jean ran for a state representative position and will be sworn into the Arkansas Legislature next month in Little Rock.
One element Vann wants to bring the mayor's office is a weekly radio talk show in which he'll inform the people of Magnolia of news and events related to the city. Vann also hopes to gain council approval to change the regular monthly meetings to Tuesday nights instead of Monday nights so he can attend other public meetings held on Mondays. Vann stressed the importance of working with Quorum Court and Magnolia Regional Medical Center meetings to make sure communication is open and issues are addressed. To his knowledge, past Magnolia mayors have not attended such meetings on a regular basis.
The three main areas on which Vann wants to concentrate are property improvements, decreasing drugs and crime inside the city, and helping Magnolia businesses increase their sales and success.
"I want to see every business in Magnolia thrive, and if they are not, we want to know what the city can do to improve their business," Vann said.
Vann said the downtown shops of Magnolia are vital to the community and it is important for citizens to shop in the city because it helps the tax base and provide jobs for their neighbors. Additionally, shopping locally saves people money, he said, adding that people often don't figure in the expenses of gas and a meal out for themselves and their family when shopping in Texarkana or Shreveport.
Vann said he will work with local police enforcement to decrease crime. He said people who get tickets for various crimes in the city limits who are unable to pay for their tickets will be asked to perform community service such as picking up trash in the city's Wilson Garden.
Vann owns MAV Auto Sales. He is married to Angela Vann, who works for the South Central Educational Cooperative. She received her bachelor's and master's degree from Southern Arkansas University.
The Vann's have two girls, Ashton, 14, and Madalynn, 10. The family has a brown poodle, Toby, who started off being a pet for the children. He soon became the mayor-elect's favorite pet even though Vann said he was raised to not have inside pets. Toby became blind at the age of only 2, but as long as the family does not rearrange furniture, the family's vet said he can find his way around just fine.
Vann said he and his family will continue being active at Immanuel Baptist Church and also with Compassions Foundation ministries, a ministry the church offers for battered women and children. Angela Vann serves on the foundation's board.
Vann said working with his own business has always left him with less time than he would have had otherwise, but he is going to make an effort to spend more time with his family and go hunting with his daughters again soon, something they all enjoy doing.
"I need to start back. I guess I'm a workaholic. I hate to admit it, but I have been all my life," Vann said.
But for at least the next few days, Vann will be spending time with his family and celebrating Christmas. He wanted to extend a Merry Christmas to all citizens of Magnolia and remind them to remember that Christ is the reason for the season.