Casey Creasey was recently named executive director of the Greater Belhaven Foundation (GBF). Creasey holds degrees from the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi School of Law. She takes over as director after serving in the position in an interim capacity. Creasey spoke recently to Sun Senior Staff Writer Anthony Warren about her role and the challenges faced by the Greater Belhaven area. Creasey and her husband Sam have one daughter, Grace, and have lived in Belhaven for nine years.
What attracted you to this position?
“I feel real passionate about Belhaven. I love the neighborhood and the city of Jackson and want good things to happen, and I want to help make those things happen.”
What are the biggest challenges for Belhaven right now?
“They’re about the same as with any Jackson neighborhood. We have failing infrastructure, crime and code enforcement challenges.”
As far as code enforcement, what are the biggest violations you’ve seen?
“People not picking up trash in their yards, and yards not being cut or maintained. When I moved here, there were two houses on my street. One burned and sat there forever. There are lot of issues with people letting their houses go, not living in them or vacating them. There’s one house on the corner of Jefferson (Street) and Poplar (Boulevard) – we call it the ‘Mustard House’ on Nextdoor – it’s just awful. Recently, someone has been cleaning it out and a for sale sign has gone up, so we’re hoping someone does something with that.”
I know of two houses the Sun wrote about last year that had been abandoned but were later purchased. One was on St. Ann and the other was on Laurel Street.
“The one on Laurel Street was purchased. (The individual who purchased it is) remodeling the house and planning to move into it. We’re happy people like that are reinvesting in the neighborhood.”
What is the foundation’s role in addressing issues like code enforcement?
“We deal with it by working with our neighborhood associations. We have the Greater Belhaven Security Association (GBSA). We try to help them build their membership, so they can provide additional security. We also try to have good relationships with the police precinct, and we work closely with the Belhaven Heights Community Association (BHCA) and Belhaven Improvement Association (BIA) when they have needs.”
Do you think it takes too long for the city to address code enforcement needs? And can GBF do anything to advocate for a quicker response to the neighborhood’s needs?
“As I have not yet dealt with a code enforcement issue I can’t answer to the whether the city promptly addresses them. I do intend to work as closely with the City of Jackson as I possibly can to help make any and all improvements to Greater Belhaven and to make sure the neighborhood’s need are addressed as quickly as possible.”
You mention that the foundation works with quite a few associations. Do any of these groups’ roles overlap?
“Each one of the associations has a board liaison and have a seat on our board. We work together and communicate regularly so that doesn’t happen. Our duties do overlap sometime, but because they serve on our board, we can work together on duties that overlap and help in areas that don’t overlap.”
I want to go back to something you mentioned earlier, the infrastructure. You have these beautiful homes surrounded by large, stately trees, and roads that are falling apart. There are two major colleges in the community with potholes and water main breaks right in front of them. Do those problems take away from the neighborhood?
“I don’t think so. You have to look at the city as a whole. There are potholes everywhere. Do I wish we had better streets and no water line breaks when temperatures fall below freezing? Yes, and that would be amazing. But I think Mayor (Chokwe) Antar Lumumba is picking the right people for his team, and I think we’re going to see some massive changes for the better.”
Have you reached out to the Lumumba administration yet?
“I have not as of yet but I fully intend to in the coming weeks.”
How is the foundation funded? Do GBF receive dues?
“We do not receive dues but have an annual giving program funded by the Belhaven 100 and several other donors in the neighborhood.”
Does the foundation have the role of a typical neighborhood association?
“We work at a higher level. We try to coordinate and serve as a go-between for our associations, so everyone is working together to move the community forward. We also focus on long-term planning.”
As the new director, what are some of your priorities?
“We have our Belhaven Arts Series. We usually kick that off in the spring. Last year, we only had three programs. I would like to see that grow into five or six a year.”
Tell me about the art series.
“One is Shakespeare in the Park. New Stage Theatre comes in on Mother’s Day weekend and does a live performance. We also had Pumpkins in the Park. Kiefer’s has sponsored it for several years and provide the pumpkins. We have a pumpkin decorating contest for children at no cost, and that is followed by a movie in the park. In November, we had our Community Peace Sing. Royce and Sherry Boyer organized that. Murrah High School came out, and we had several singers and performing groups.”
What is the attendance at these events, typically?
“At Pumpkins in the Park, we had about 100 pumpkins donated and all of them were used. The attendance was probably 150 to 200. At Shakespeare in the Park, we probably had about 100. At the Peace Sing, there were probably about 50. People really love family events. With the Arts Series, we try to provide that sense of community – people can bring their family out, meet their neighbors and participate in something fun.”
In recent years, the foundation has taken on some major projects, including making improvements to Belhaven Park and leading the effort on the Fortification Street Improvement Project. What are some of the next big projects for GBF?
“The board is still discussing what projects to tackle next.”
How do you choose a project?
“Sometimes they’re brought to us, other times we see a need. We have an amazing board. Most members are longtime residents, and they’re very good at identifying projects and moving them forward. Sometimes, projects start with a phone call or a gift, like someone giving us property.”