A rose to Mike Hainsey, who announced his retirement Friday after 19 years as executive director of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. It will be hard to imagine GTRA with Hainsey whose last day on the job will be June 30. His retirement culminates an aviation career of more than 45 years, which includes both his airport time as well as a career in the U.S. Air Force. During Hainsey’s tenure at GTR the airport saw record-setting growth in passenger numbers. He oversaw more than $30 million in capital improvement projects. A strong proponent of economic development, Hainsey played a key role in industrial development and worked with the GTR LINK to help locate more than $7 billion in new industry and 5,000 new jobs in the area. A former USAF pilot, Hainsey strengthened GTRA’s partnership with Columbus Air Force Base, creating income for the airport, but more importantly helping CAFB continue its mission by providing runway access for training. Hainsey’s enthusiasm for GTRA was always evident and his leadership helped the airport survive and thrive throughout challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Matt Dowell, the current airport Deputy Director, will replace Hainsey after nine years in his current position. We wish Dowell continued success in this important role.
A rose to Frank “Preacher Man” Thomas and the downtown Starkville business owners and patrons who embraced him. Over the years, Thomas became a well-known figure downtown, a gentle, affable man who sometimes asked those he met for spare change and always seemed to be around. Under different circumstances, people like Thomas would be viewed as a vagrant or a panhandler, but his sweet disposition quickly dismissed that notion. People didn’t cross the street when approaching Thomas; they looked forward to sharing a moment and a few dollars. One of his proudest possessions was a badge Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney gave him with “orders” to keep an eye on downtown. 929 Coffee Bar, along with other businesses, welcomed him and took care of him. Thomas touched a compassionate place in the heart of downtown Starkville. Starkville Cafe and 929 Coffee are taking donations to help with funeral expenses, an excellent opportunity to thank Thomas one last time for what he meant to downtown Starkville.
A rose to the organizers of the Friendly City Shootout soccer tournament, which took place at the Lowndes County Soccer Complex last weekend. Large tournaments and the tourism dollars that accompany them have been promised since the Soccer Complex was first proposed. Tournaments have been hosted there, but we have to strain to remember a tournament that was as well-attended and well-organized as the Friendly City Shootout. Local businessman Jason Spears served as tournament director, but an event of this size isn’t possible without the work of many. We look forward to the next tournament organized by Columbus Soccer Organization.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.