#427. The Renovation of Ruleville

Posted on | The Agurban

In travelling around the USA and doing 400+ talks in 44 states, I’ve run into some very interesting and memorable people.  Billy Marlow, who you’ll read about here would make my top 10 list of those people.  Billy, a local catfish farmer, was drafted to take over a failing local hospital.  What he did to turn it around and the impact that he and the hospital have had on tiny Ruleville should be developed into a new book or movie.  We found this recent article The Renovation of Ruleville in the ‘Delta Business Journal.’  Here is an excerpt from their study.

The Renovation of Ruleville

Small town living is right up there with mom and apple pie when it comes to most people’s idea of the heart of the American spirit. Civic-mindedness, a community-driven effort where folks pull together to make something happen, is what it’s all about.

The town of Ruleville is living that idyll now as the downtown area gets a major regeneration.
Billy Marlow is a lifetime Ruleville resident and has served North Sunflower Medical Center since 2004, first as its chief executive officer and currently as the hospital’s executive director.

Marlow, along with other Ruleville residents, have formed the Ruleville Development Council, or RDC, a non-profit organization, and are determined to bring the renaissance of Ruleville to fruition.”This didn’t just happen overnight,” Marlow said. “We all got together and began to discuss how we could give our town a leg-up for the 21st century. We had been successful with the hospital, so why not with our downtown area.”

Marlow said the organization began applying for grants and was rewarded when Southern Bancorp South awarded it the money to put up new awnings and paint the fronts of the buildings downtown. Grants were obtained for new sidewalks, which Marlow said they are now in the last stages of replacing. “We hope to be the bedroom community of Cleveland,” Marlow said. “We feel like we are a part of Cleveland and are proud of our communal connection to it.”

Many of the old buildings in Ruleville that hadn’t been used in years have now been renovated and are being utilized successfully.

Marlow said the objective with the city’s rejuvenation is to make it clean, safe and affordable for people to live the rural life, while at the same time having the downtown amenities of an up-to-date city.

Joanie Perkins moved from Indiana to the Mississippi Delta in 2007. She bought a house in Ruleville in 2010 and has loved it ever since. Perkins is an officer of the Ruleville Development Council and has written many of the grants the city has applied for over the years.

Perkins said they started with a five-year strategic plan with five work areas to predominate: healthcare, housing and restoration, economic development, leadership and education.

Perkins said accountability for all the teams was the catalyst that enabled their five-year plan to already be near completion. “Being accountable to the Ruleville Development Council board really motivated all of the chairs and members to stay on track,” Perkins said. “Knowing you had to report regularly to that board was a big incentive for me and all of us.”

Perkins said the note to get members together for the next five-year strategic plan for Ruleville’s future was on her desk now. “We’ve only just begun,” Perkins said.

For the full story, visit here.