Rosedale native Katherine Crump recently made history as she was appointed the first female board member of the Mississippi Levee Board based in Greenville, MS. But her presence on the board goes far beyond just the historical aspect of her arrival.
Peter Nimrod, Chief Engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board, said, “She is going to be fantastic. Katherine is very excited about the position and is very smart and knowledgeable. There is no doubt that she will be a great asset to us and a fantastic commissioner. We’re thrilled to have her here.”
Two of Crump’s predecessors on the Board had both passed away, Jimmy House and his successor, Frank Brown. “After Frank passed away, my supervisor, Jacorius Liner, appointed me to the Board in April,” said Crump. “When the qualifying period came up on June 2, I ended up unopposed on the ballot.”
The term on the board lasts four years and each individual election is countywide, although to get access to the ballot in Bolivar County a candidate has to qualify by collecting signatures on the specific side of the county where the candidate hails from. “Bolivar County has two commissioners,” Crump explained. “Myself, from the west side and Nott Wheeler on the east side.”
Crump is now the first woman in the 155-year history of the Mississippi Levee Board to serve on the Board, but she downplays that aspect of her new position. “It is a tremendous honor,” said Crump. “I’m thrilled to be working alongside such outstanding civic minded people. It is also a serious responsibility.”
Crump also gives credit to Mississippi Levee Board, executive secretary, Ginger Morlino.
“Ginger is the glue who holds us all together–the Board, the engineers and the employees.”
Given her family history, it seems only natural that Crump is where she is on the Levee Board today.
“Our family home faces the levee–I grew up on the levee. Along with that, one of our frequent visitors to the house in my youth was Newman Bolls, who was the longtime chief engineer with the Levee Board from 1956 to 1989, and he was held in such high esteem by all of us. We heard so many stories about the work being done and how important it all was. I also have family members who have a history with the levees that predate the actual founding of the Mississippi Levee Board,” Crump added. “My great-great grandfather was involved in levee activity dating back to 1846 and another relative, Charles Clark, was one of the first members of the Mississippi Levee Board.”
Crump also noted that her great-grandfather served as both Levee Board president and board attorney and his son, her great uncle, served as board attorney as well. “You can say I have it in my genes,” she laughed.
When asked what skill set and knowledge she will bring to the Mississippi Levee Board Crump said, “First of all, I hope to bring a different perspective. I have always loved agriculture and public service. My first job was with the USDA Sedimentation Laboratory. I subsequently worked at the MS Department of Agriculture, and then as crop consultant and, later, a pecan producer.”
Currently, Crump is the CFO of Sillers Partnership which owns and manages tracks of farmland and woodlands all along the levee system.
“Ultimately, the Levee Board’s work and mission is vitally important to our area–to every person in the Delta,” said Crump. “That’s a hard fact. It’s the greatest man-made resource to us who live here. I’m honored to be actively involved in public service through the Levee Board because of my love for the Delta. I live in a home today that has the highwater mark of 1897 in it on a mirror, for goodness’ sake! You can’t get much more involved in the historical aspect of it than that–I see it every single day. Honestly, I have always been interested in the board member position.”
Crump goes on to admit, “and I had talked at length with Jimmy House about it for probably 10 years. And after the 2011 flood, which was catastrophic, it seems we are continuing to have even more and more highwater events here. We have to get the Yazoo Backwater Pumps finished, a cause the Levee Board has been championing and fighting for years–many of us have family in the South Delta, including my mother who owns property in the region. It’s an economic and environmental tragedy every time we have severe flooding there. Those are just some of the reasons why I sought this position–I’m acutely and personally aware of its crucial significance and the importance of the Levee Board’s tireless work.”
Crump is increasingly confident that public opinion of the pump project is swinging in favor of those, like the Mississippi Levee Board, who advocate its construction.
“We feel like the momentum is gaining. As a matter of fact, right now we’re currently gathering signed cards of support for finishing to present to the Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg. After the catastrophic backwater flooding of the last couple of years, I believe that those in influential positions are realizing the importance of the pumps and the need for flood relief.”
Having been sworn in at the May board meeting of the Levee Board (the same meeting in which longtime member and Chairman Fred Ballard stepped down after years of service), Crump said she is looking forward to her next meeting which will be held in July, one that will welcome another new member, David Cochran of Washington County, who will take Ballard’s place.
“I am so appreciative to the people who have supported me and I will do my best to exemplify their trust by being a strong Levee Board Commission,” said Crump.
By Jack criss
The Bolivar Bullet