Bienville C of C names Man, Woman of 2013

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

Persilla Smith Woman of the Year
Priscilla Smith began working at the Bienville Democrat thirteen years ago. A visit to the Democrat office located on Arcadia's North Railroad Avenue opens one's understanding as to what it takes to keep this weekly publication going. The week at the office begins on Monday. "It's hectic!" Priscilla said. "You begin the day frantically typing and answering the non stop phone calls at the same time. Wayne Dring, my co-worker on Mondays and Tuesdays, and I work non-stop to meet the Democrat's deadline at 4:30 PM. Some days it almost drives you crazy! "

The paper is put together using the cut and paste method. "Building a page is something like cutting out paper dolls," Smith said. "The items to be on a page are composed on the computer, printed and cut out, waxed on a machine, then pasted to the large sheets that make up the publication. Tuesday, a courier picks up the box containing the originals we've put together and takes it to the office of the Natchitoches Times for printing. Homer and Arcadia are the only papers owned by the Times still using this method. We anticipate a change in the near future, to paginating, done on the computer."

"I drive to Natchitoches on Wednesday and pick up the papers and then deliver them on my way back to sites in Saline, Castor, Ringgold, Jamestown, Bryceland, Gibsland, and Arcadia. Thursday is my day to sell ads; that's how the paper makes money to cover expenses. Friday, I work editing press releases and getting ready for Monday."

"I cover all festivals and public meetings if I can make it," Priscilla said. Her presence at festivals is almost mandatory, certainly expected by communities that expect to see photographs of their event in the next issue of the Democrat. Most often these events extend into late evening on weekends and her photographs are expected items for the upcoming publication.

Priscilla's community involvement includes sixteen years of membership in the Arcadia Service Club where she served in several positions, treasurer and Benevolence, and for the past two years as President. She is very active in Relay for Life and American Cancer Society and other fundraising events. "I love my community and enjoy helping however I can," she said.

Delving into the early life of Priscilla Smith gives insight into her energy and strength of character. She was born in Arkansas into a family of seventeen children. Her father had sustained injuries as a soldier in World War II and became unable to support his large family. Priscilla was placed in Foster care at nine years of age and lived in five different foster homes until she was seventeen. She began supporting herself by working whatever jobs were available throughout Arkansas hoping that she would someday find her Mother and the rest of her family. Unsuccessful in her search, she moved on to Oklahoma supporting herself as a waitress while still searching for her Mom. She learned by chance that her Mother had moved to Nebraska. "I felt so alone," Pricilla said. "I wondered where do I start, who do I ask?" Then she learned that her Mother was looking for her too.

"I came home from work one day and was surprised to see this car with Nebraska license plates sitting across the street. A man stepped from the driver's side and called Priscilla! He wanted to talk to me, he said. He answered my 'Who are you?' with, 'I'm your Mom's friend.' Turns out that my Mother had been looking for me too and had traced me through my last Foster Home to Oklahoma. I left the next morning for Nebraska."

"Mother's wish, I learned, was that all her children would be found. She had tried unsuccessfully over the years to get her family back together. We eventually connected with everyone who was still living and I enjoyed a wonderful relationship with Mother.

I lost her when I was nine years old, found her and we enjoyed a wonderful relationship for thirty years, and then I lost her again when she died in 1998."

Priscilla and her Mother lived in Nebraska from 1968 through 1977 and then both moved to Louisiana. "We settled in Arcadia where I worked different jobs. I worked for a time at Nob Hill, at Luigi's. I had lived an independent life, had learned to make it on my own," she said.

Priscilla's eyes filled with tears as she spoke of her Mother's early death at age seventy- one, then continued with a happy ending to her story.

"I married the love of my life, Don Smith, in 1990 and we have shared twenty three wonderful years together," Mrs. Priscilla Smith said. "We have a wonderful family, three children, Eric, Nikki, and Hugh, nine grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. I love people, enjoy my work, and believe that I have been blessed in many ways.

Priscilla was elected 2013 Woman of the Year by the Bienville Parish Chamber of Commerce as recognition of her outstanding service to her community.

Man of the Year

Rodney Warren Man of the Year
Each year, the Bienville Parish Chamber of Commerce asks for nominations from its membership for persons who are outstanding in their line of work and give exceptional service to their community. All nominations are carefully considered by the Board of Directors and then voted on. The Board of Directors elected Rodney Warren, Secretary -Treasurer for the Bienville Parish Police Jury as the 2013 Man of the year.

Rodney Warren is one of forty-four employed by the Bienville Parish Police Jury.

As secretary treasurer for the jury, he has oversight of multiple programs coming through his office, and his surroundings attest to his daily workload. Paperwork on his desk may include, applications for grants, minutes and financial reports for jury meetings, applications for building permits, bills for housing of jail inmates, invoices for road work and garbage pickup expense, building maintenance concerns, ongoing courthouse construction concerns, and more. The Jury office staffed by Warren and two employees, Gloria Crane, and Jenifer Caskey, is bursting at the seams with files stacked on desks and in corners. A large picture of the courthouse currently in construction is a reminder that Rodney's office will have more room soon, "hopefully in July", he said.

It looks like a high-pressure job. Rodney however always seems relaxed and courteous, and glad to lend a helping hand. A phone call from a constituent may concern making an application for a Grant from the Tourism Fund. Another detail may relate to his role as Director of Emergency Preparedness and involve the process of getting the communication system updated to the 700-MHZ system the State has transferred to. A building permit mandated by the state in 2007 may be pending. Warren may be preparing the agenda related to an upcoming meeting of the Police Jury. Oversight of courthouse construction, one already completed and the other pending requires endless attention. A meeting of the Courthouse Committee may be on the agenda and require his attendance to take notes.

Warren's roots go deep in Bienville Parish and his dedication to his job and to his constituency is understandable. He was born in Ringgold, Louisiana when Fletcher's Clinic was in operation. His parents, Nathan and Shine Warren, brought him up in Castor where he attended and graduated from Castor High School. Louisiana Tech was important to Rodney in that he graduated with a degree in Business Administration and met and married his wife Beth.

A military career interrupted the lives of the young couple when Warren enlisted in the U. S. Army. From 1988-1992 he served as a Military Intelligence Analyst and did duty in the Gulf War, Desert Storm. " My military career was good for me." Rodney said. "I grew up as a sheltered child from a small town, then witnessed many bad things in the War. However, I learned a lot and consider it, over all, a good experience."

Rodney moved back to Castor in June of 1992. While Beth taught school at Elm Grove, he made the drive to Shreveport each day and worked for a manufacturing company. Three years later, he became a Sheriff's Deputy for Bienville Parish where he was employed until he began his current job with the Jury in 2000. "I had many interesting experiences as a Deputy," Warren said. "There was a camaraderie with the people you worked with, a brotherhood of sorts."

"I still work for the Sheriff's Department, as a Reserve Officer when needed," Warren continued. "I like to go to ball games and work there. It's a rewarding job, you sometimes get to help people and occasionally there's some excitement. I get to introduce the starting line up at the ball games and I enjoy that. That lets me keep up with the younger generation. There are so many people moving in to go to our Castor school."

"Beth and I have two children, Tyler, who is currently a senior at Louisiana Tech and Lindsey, a junior at Castor High School. I am blessed," Warren said. "I have a good family, a good job, and good friends."