STARKVILLE — When Jeffrey Rupp was news director at WCBI in Columbus, a fresh out of college Chris Latimer joined the staff as a sports intern.
Latimer recalled Rupp’s impressions of the cub reporter: He could “still eat free at Shoney’s” because he “looked 12.”
Still, the other sports reporters kept pushing the reluctant Rupp to get Latimer in front of a camera.
“(They) kept saying, ‘You’ve got to put him on the air,’” Rupp, now Starkville’s Ward 3 alderman, said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “… I kept saying, ‘We are not turning this newsroom into Nickelodeon.’ They kept badgering me, and so we put him on the air. He was great. He was a consummate pro.”
Latimer spent six years as a sportscaster with WCBI before heading to law school and later joining the firm of Mitchell, McNutt and Sams.
By the time Rupp was elected alderman in 2021, the two men’s roles were somewhat reversed: Rupp was the new kid on the block and Latimer was the board’s veteran attorney.
“I can assure you I wasn’t going to underestimate him twice,” Rupp said.
Rupp’s comments joined those of the mayor and other aldermen saying goodbye to Latimer, who is stepping down at year’s end from a role he has held since 2009. Berk Huskison, another attorney with Mitchell, McNutt and Sams, will assume the board attorney role officially in January.
“It’s big shoes to fill, no doubt about it,” Huskison, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said of Latimer. “This is a great board, and I look forward to working with them.”
Each alderman, as well as Mayor Lynn Spruill, lauded Latimer as honest, knowledgeable, professional and someone who kept politics out of the legal advice he gave the city.
“He has kept us out of trouble,” Spruill said. “When we’ve gotten ourselves in trouble, he’s gotten us out of trouble. He has been a stalwart supporter, a confidant, just a real asset to the city and to me personally. I’m going to miss him terribly.”
Latimer took time Tuesday to address the mayor and board, offering each a heartfelt personal message from the podium.
The Starkville native, who now lives with his family in Oxford, also recounted his childhood — from playing at the First Methodist Church playground to riding his bicycle all over town during summers and Christmas holidays, partaking in whatever game or adventure he found along the way.
“Growing up in Starkville in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s was really like a Tom Sawyer existence,” Latimer said. “… You’d be gone all day, and at some point during the day, somebody’s momma would feed you. When it was about dark-thirty, you’d ride your bike back home.
“In addition to my family, I believe that the city of Starkville has helped raise me,” he added. “So it has been the highlight of my professional life to be able to serve you as city attorney for the better part of 14 years.”
Latimer also noted the city’s accomplishments, along with continued efforts to keep Starkville at what he called its “rightful place”: a frontline Southeastern Conference city.
“I’m proud of where Starkville has been, … and yet I think Starkville’s best days are ahead,” he said.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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