2014 Speakers

Our speakers in 2014 were amazing!  We were so lucky to have passionate people who inspired us on our journey to making Mississippi a better place to live and work for all of us.


Jennifer V.O. Baughn

Jennifer Baughn is the Chief Architectural Historian for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. When not researching Mississippi’s many fine historic schools, Jennifer can be found putting the finishing touches on her book, Buildings of Mississippi, written with co-author Dr. Michael Fazio, which is expected to be published in late 2015.


Ernesto Caldeira

Ernesto Caldeira

Ernesto Caldeira has been a resident of New Orleans and Woodville since 1971. Over the years he has been involved in restorations from New York to New Orleans, winning the coveted Vieux Carre’ Honor Award in 1986 for the restoration of 516 St. Philip Street. His book The Plantation World of Wilkinson County, Mississippi, 1792-2012, co-authored with Stella Pitts, was released in 2013. Filled with stories and photographs of over fifty major plantations, this all-volunteer project is a fundraiser for the Woodville Civic Club.


Dan Camp

Dan CampDan Camp started the development of the Cotton District in Starkville in 1972. What began as eight apartments has blossomed into a whole community including retail spaces, restaurants, and living quarters that over four hundred people call home. During the spring of 1987, Dan and his wife Gemma recognized local artists and musicians with a small gathering at their home. From this modest beginning, the Cotton District Arts Festival has grown to attract over 12,000 people to Starkville each April. A former mayor of Starkville, Dan lectures widely about the sound urban planning concepts that led to the success of the Cotton District and was awarded the first Arthur Ross Award for Community Design by Classical America.


Chelius H. Carter

Chelius CarterChelius H. Carter hails from Holly Springs by way of Memphis. As the director of the Marshall County Historical Museum and driving force behind Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs, Inc. and the Behind the Big House tour program, Chelius is committed to preserving the rich architectural and cultural heritage of his hometown. The former director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Gulf Coast Field Office, Chelius worked with coast residents after the storm to utilize unprecedented federal funds for disaster recovery of historic resources.


Chris Chain

Chris ChainChris Chain pioneered the concept of downtown living in Mississippi with the restoration of historic building in Columbus for commercial and residential use in the 1990s. Chris started his construction company Renovations of Mississippi, Inc. in 1996, which specializes in historic restoration and new construction projects and has completed over 100 projects around the state. Chris has received many awards for his outstanding commitment to preservation, including a commendation from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the President’s Award from Main Street Columbus and the Mississippi Main Street Paul Coggin Award.


Dick Hill

Dick HillDick Hill is a retired businessman and former two-term Tupelo city councilman and council president. Dick is an amateur historian who studied for four years at the University of Kansas, majoring in human relations. Dick also served his country in the United State Marine Corps. Dick is the co-author of Images of America book, “Tupelo a Pictorial History”.



Representative Steve Holland

Steve HollandRepresentative Steve Holland has served in the Mississippi Legislature since 1984. A native of Tupelo, Steve is a true renaissance man – funeral home director, tree farmer, historic preservationist and champion of the least, last and most vulnerable among us.



Tom Howorth

Tom HoworthTom Howorth is an architect and president of Howorth & Associates Architects, the firm he formed in 1990 as a successor firm to Mockbee•Coker•Howorth• Architects, which was founded in 1986. In 1995, he relocated his firm from Jackson to his native Oxford, Mississippi.

His work has earned numerous awards for architectural design and historic preservation and has been featured in Architecture, Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture, AIA Memo, The New York Times, Building Design and Construction, Southern Accents and Preservation. Howorth has been recognized with the American Institute of Architects’ Young Architect’s Citation (1993), the (Mississippi) Governor’s Award of Excellence for Design of Public Space (1993), and as Alumnus of the Year of the School of Architecture of Mississippi State University (1993). He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1999.


Councilman Buddy Palmer

Buddy PalmerCouncilman Buddy Palmer is serving his first term on the Tupelo City Council. For many years, Buddy collected Native American artifacts in the Tupelo area, rescuing many items from road and housing development projects, and later donated his extensive collection to the Chickasaw Nation.



John McClure

John McClureJohn McClure has had a long and distinguished career in historic preservation, including serving as director of Meridian’s award-winning Main Street program. He is currently the Community Development Director for the City of Meridian, a position he was appointed to by Mayor Percy Bland in 2013. His department is responsible for planning, zoning administration, code enforcement, historic preservation, arts and cultural affairs, urban forestry, economic and community development, as well as operation of the City’s Arts District Parking Garage and the multi-modal center Union Station. A former trustee of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, John is working to find a development solution for the landmark Threefoot Building in Meridian, listed as one of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.


Deborah Hicks Midanek

Deborah MidanekDeborah Hicks Midanek comes to historic preservation with a background in finance and business. Her business development and restructuring firm Solon Group works with other companies on growth strategy and handling rapid change. Deborah earned her MBA from the Wharton School and an AB from Bryn Mawr College. A frequent writer and speaker on governance, strategy, and leadership, Deborah also manages Prevail Investments LLC and Prevail Fund, Inc., all part of Prevail Companies. Deborah divides her time between New Mexico and Grenada, where she is helping to guide a downtown renaissance.


Kenneth H. P’ Pool

Kenneth PpoolKenneth H. P’Pool began his work in historic preservation as a part-time Curator at Travellers’ Rest Plantation Museum in his hometown of Nashville, but most of his professional career has been with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, where he currently serves as Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for Mississippi. Since August 2005, nearly 100% of his time has been devoted toward managing a $30 million program to restore historic properties damaged by Hurricane Katrina. P’Pool served five terms on the Board of Directors and as chair of various committees for the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers and was chairman of the Natchez National Historical Park Advisory Commission. He is a board member of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, the Billups-Garth Foundation, and the Mississippi Main Street Association.


Robert Saarnio

Robert SaarnioRobert Saarnio is the Director of University Museum and Historic Houses at the University of Mississippi. Educated in architectural history and fine arts at Harvard College, Robert received a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania. His museum career began in 1995 at the Peabody Essex Museum and has included roles of Curator, Deputy, Director, and Direct additionally at Cranbrook (Michigan), Johns Hopkins (Maryland), Doris Duke Foundation (Hawaii), Honolulu Museum of Art (Hawaii), University of Hawaii Foundation, and University of Mississippi. Robert also spent a year as a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.


Jodi Skipper

Jodi SkipperJodi Skipper is a professor of anthropology at the University of Mississippi, where she teaches courses on U.S. Southern heritage tourism and the introduction to archaeology and biological anthropology. Jodi’s research explores the intersections of public archaeology and cultural heritage tourism, specifically as they relate to communities of color in the Southern United States.


Belinda Stewart

Belinda StewartBelinda Stewart, FAIA, is principal of Belinda Stewart Architects, PA, a rural architectural firm specializing in historic preservation and new construction in historically significant environments. Belinda moved back to her hometown of Eupora 24 years ago and established her firm, which has helped to plan and implement many successful preservation projects. Belinda is in her fifth term as Mayor of the nearby Village of Walthall.


Stella Gray Bryant Skyes

Stella Gray Bryant Sykes holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Georgia. As director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, Stella Gray founded the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi program. A former state representative for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Stella Gray is a champion and cheerleader for the transformative power of preservation.


Boyd Yarborough

Boyd Yarborough is author of several books on the history of northeast Mississippi and loves to share his extensive knowledge of the history of Tupelo with others.


Malcolm White

Malcolm WhiteMalcolm White has been the Director of Tourism for the Mississippi Development Authority since 2013. In this role, he is responsible for the overall management, development and implementation of Mississippi’s story along with the creation of economic growth and opportunities for Mississippi through tourism. Prior to this, Malcolm served as executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission for seven years. Starting as a dishwasher, Malcolm worked his way through the ranks of the hospitality industry. Those early experiences led him and his brother Hal to open one of Jackson’s most celebrated gathering places, Hal & Mal’s. In 2004, he received the Tourism Visionary Award and the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts and continues to be what many call a passionate, visionary and entrepreneurial soul.