Creating jobs in Copiah County
By Bob Arnold
For 11 years, Arthur Lee (Pokey) Evans has applied the lessons he learned sitting on the bench of Crystal Springs High School basketball and track teams, working for this father’s trucking company and then managing his own, and serving as Mayor of Crystal Springs to the task of keeping Copiah Countians at work.
Evans is Executive Director of the Copiah County Economic Development District (CCEDD), and in that job makes sure there are employers for the people in Copiah County who want jobs.
“I learned the values of being all-in and giving 100 percent to the team whether or not you played as a starter, treating people with respect and responding readily to needs,” says Evans. People who want to live and work in Copiah County are glad he learned those lessons well.
On the wall next to his desk, a wood plaque also guides Evans: “Be Still and know that I am God,” it says. “I’m often tempted shout and jump up and down if something goes wrong. I’m reminded that isn’t the answer.”
Born and raised in Crystal Springs, Evans graduated from high school there in 1978, where he played basketball and participated in track and field events. “I never started for the team, but I am proud that I never got cut,” he recalls. “I played as I was called upon to contribute to the team, giving my all.
After high school, he decided he would work for his father at A.L. Evans Trucking Company and go to college the following year, but never returned to his studies. “I found the money good, and eventually started AL Evans, Jr., Trucking Company, which owned three trucks and several employees, Evans says. “The companies hauled gravel, asphalt, raw materials and anything else people needed to move.”
In the process, Evans learned business success stemmed from dealing right with people – your customers, workers and everyone else upon which your company depended. “Treating people with respect made all the difference in the world.”
Twenty years later while driving one of his trucks, Evans heard a voice tell him: “You need to do something else.” He followed the advice, ran for Mayor of Crystal Springs in 2001, lost, returned to his trucking business, but heeded the voice again four years later and won by two votes.
“I was told later the job of Mayor is kissing babies and cutting ribbons, but shortly after taking office, I was faced with the major damage Hurricane Katrina did to Crystal Springs, the murder of a police officer and a traffic accident in which a fire truck was hit by a gravel truck,” Evans says. “I learned about public service in a hurry.”
The voters of Crystal Spring re-elected Evans Mayor in 2009, but two years later when he could focus on babies and ribbons while addressing issues around improving the town’s infrastructure, he took the job as CCEDD Executive Director with its focus on the wider county and new service challenges.
Evans cites two major challenges in the job that have defined his approach to it over the past 11 years: Advanced Auto Parts closure -- a crisis that threatened many job losses -- and the decision of McNeely Plastics to locate a plant in Copiah County -- an important economic development coup. In both cases, Evans drew on his skills as a team player and people person, working with Brenda Harper, his staff assistant; the CCEDD board, Copiah County Supervisors and state economic development officials to get Premier Transportation to take over the Advanced Auto Parts facility and to address the needs of McNeely Plastics that would bring it to Copiah County. And in both cases, the result was new job opportunities for Copiah Countians – the mission Evans sees for his work in the final analysis.
Evans is married to Judy Hicks Evans, a lab technician at Copiah County Medical Center, and they have two grown children – Arthur Lee Evans III, 39, a business manager, and JaBrean Evans Hood, 25, a first grade teacher.
What are your hobbies? My wife says it is work – answering phones 24/7, but I enjoy Alcorn and Jackson State football, particularly tailgating. Since 2001, I have served on the Copiah County School Board, when I was asked to serve out the term of a deceased member of the boardand was subsequently identified as the best replacement. I also find lawn and garden work therapeutic. I like being with my family, too.
Are you a reader? I read newspapers to know what is going on, and to converse with people. I also read inspirational and motivational books. A favorite is Max Lucado’s It’s Not About Me. The Bible keeps me grounded
Do you and favorite movies or plays? I watch Netflix. It may seem odd, but movies about the drug cartels fascinate me – their business sense and how they make things happen.
Do you enjoy music? My wife, son and daughter sing and play, but I am just a listener, and eclectic, with my tastes ranging from gospel to rap to R&B and country.
What would you do with lottery winnings if you were so lucky? After making sure my family, including a brother, sister and in-laws, were not in financial stress, I would help the school system meet the vocational and technical needs of students through a vo-tech center.
How would you change the world? The world needs a big dose of common sense.