Theatre Fight Produces Crop of Political Activists

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(Olive Branch, MS) Heather Fox is one of what she calls a new breed of DeSoto County voter, one that gets involved and vocal about community issues, ”When you have an opinion actually say, it out loud, sometimes that’s not politically correct, but we’re not about being confrontational, we’re about being honest."

Her blog, “Desoto County Reform,” covers all kinds of topics from schools to political nepotism.

Fox was among a group of homeowners protesting a movie theater that planned to locate very close to some neighbors.

Fox believes her cause got a boost when Olive Branch Aldermen turned down the theater.

Olive Branch Mayor Sam Rikard says since he started in politics in 1989, he’s seen such activism come and go, ”I don’t really expect to see an increase in it, again, I think it’s issue-related. It’s been my observation that as we’ve grown the constituency has become more apathetic."

Maybe so, but lately more citizen groups have organized and taken tough stances on important issues.

The Concerned Citizens of Southaven started up with a financial scandal hit their town.

Experts say it’s not unusual to see an increase in citizen involvement as more people move to an area, and with DeSoto one of the fastest-growing Counties and Olive Branch one of the fastest-growing Cities in the Country, some say they expect it.

Those newcomers bring new ideas that don’t always match political business as usual in DeSoto.

Mayor Rikard says there’s room in his town for all points of view, ”I don’t mind that at all. A person in my position, or Alderman needs to hear from the public to find out what their views are."

If they don’t, they run the risk of lighting a fire under some formerly apathetic voters, something which has launched some well-known political careers.

For instance, Former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout launched his political career with a fight to keep the old Mall of Memphis from being built in his neighborhood.

”I am happy with the Aldemen’s decision last night. I think they voted and made a good decision, but that hasn’t ruled out my running for alderman yet” said Steve Heuser who says his next project is to make his voice heard on the next theatre location to go before the Olive Branch board