Van Ray, Pontotoc native, elected chairman of out of doors conservation committee

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Sept. 29 – JACKSON – A Pontotoc native will chair a statewide committee tasked with allocating funds to clean up Mississippi’s aging state parks.

During its inaugural meeting on Thursday, members of the Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund’s newly formed committee elected Van Ray as the organization’s first chair. Ray, the President and CEO of Bank of Yazoo in Yazoo City, will now be responsible for presiding over the organization’s meetings, where members will decide how funds will be allocated to state rehabilitation parks and access to public and private lands for improve outdoor recreation .

“It’s an honor to be elected chairman,” Ray told the Daily Journal. “We have some great people on the committee.”

The committee also voted to allow the national staff council to advertise the group’s first employee, a project manager, to coordinate with corporate and public bodies applying for funding from the organisation. The employee’s salary would range from $66,000 to $80,000.

Kelly Hardwick, the chair of the state Personnel Committee, told the committee he could likely help the organization hire a candidate in about a month.

The committee also chose to use the Mississippi Attorney General’s office for legal advice, rather than contracting outside legal counsel for services.

After years of political venture, the Mississippi Legislature passed legislation creating the committee earlier this year. Legislators and the governor agreed to allocate $10 million to the trust fund’s first year for conservation efforts.

After the founding year, the legislature decides how much money goes into the fund. The committee may also apply for federal funding.

Republican Lt. gov. Delbert Hosemann attended part of the meeting and told the committee he hoped the members’ work would lead to improvements in wildlife conservation across the state.

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“You’re leaving a big mark on the country,” Hosemann told the members.

House Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Chairman Bill Kinkade, a Byhalia Republican, also said he is excited to see how the committee will perform in the future, as years of work have culminated in the organization’s current work.

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