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Those who keep us safe: Tracey Porter

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Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter’s passion for helping others did not start when she was named deputy director of the Warren County Emergency Management Agency.

“My dad was always helping people, so he kind of showed me an example growing up to help people and not expect anything in return—just do it from your heart,” Porter said.

The Redwood native was hired at WCEMA in 2011 and since then, she has not slowed down.

“I actually was hired on as an admin, and it developed into me being named deputy director because of all the different things we do,” Porter said.

Six months into her tenure, severe weather struck Vicksburg. Porter was ready to respond, and she handled the stressful time with grace and ease. Her coordination of that disaster may have landed her the job of deputy director.

“We had a tornado in March of 2012,” she said. “John [Elfer, director of WCEMA] was actually on vacation out of the country, and I had never dealt with that.  I think what I was able to do showed everyone that I had what it takes to be deputy director.”

Porter said she remembers good and bad times at WCEMA, but one that will forever be with her is the South Delta Backwater Flood of 2019.

“It was stressful,” she said. “I always like to remain optimistic and look on the bright side of things, but it was worrisome.”

Tracey Porter

Porter was not only on the front lines coordinating emergency response for that area during the flood,  but she was also taking a boat to her home, as her house was on the brink of being flooded.

“I was worried about my house but still had to come to work every day because all this is also happening to my neighbors and friends in the county,” Porter said. “I knew I had to keep them safe, but it really took a toll on me.”

More than 550,000 acres flooded in the South Delta, damaging farm land, homes and leaving wildlife stranded and starving. Porter’s husband is a farmer and has not worked in 14 months due to backwater flooding.

“It’s nerve wracking to go to sleep knowing a levee is the only thing holding water back to keep your home safe,” Porter said. “It was just stressful 24/7.”

Still, the 44-year-old loves her job at WCEMA and is never afraid of the task at hand.

“We wear many hats,” she said. “You can go from not doing anything to 10 seconds later, you are really, really busy. We deal with everything from barge strikes, floods, storms, natural material left on the interstate after a wreck, to large fires and more.”

Porter also works closely with organizations such as the American Red Cross and United Way of West Central Mississippi to coordinate disaster responses to events such as flood and fire relief. In January, for example, WCEMA responded with Warren County Volunteer Fire Departments to the Landings Apartment Complex fire.

Porter says disasters do not come on a schedule, and no day is ever the same.

“It can be a beautiful day, but then something can happen and turn it all the way around,” she said.

In response to COVID-19, Porter said WCEMA has been coordinating with state agencies to get medical supplies to Warren County health-care workers and also coordinated the one day drive-thru  COVID-19 testing site in Vicksburg March 31.

To cope with stress, Porter has picked up painting in her spare time, and she never loses faith.

“I am a Christian,” Porter said, “so praying has helped me with stress.”

Above all else, Porter will never lose her drive to serve others.

“I’m passionate about helping everyone in this community,” she said.

People

Pastor Reginald Harris Celebrates 17 years at Bright Morning Star Church

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Photo by Thomas Parker

Vicksburg Daily News was on hand to celebrate a special day with Pastor Reginald Harris and his family.

Sunday, the congregation at Bright Morning Star Church honored Pastor Harris for 17 years of leading the church.

Churchgoers decorated their vehicles and took the opportunity to join in the drive-by celebration and show their appreciation to the Pastor and his family.

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People

Those who keep us safe: Sam Winchester

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Photo by David Day

For 30 years and counting, Samuel K. Winchester has been a public servant.

In 1990, prior to a career in law enforcement, Winchester enlisted in the United States Military.

“I’ve always been involved in that line of work,” he said. “I am a veteran. I was in the United States Army, so that work really centered around a career in law enforcement after that.”

After the army, he got his first start in law enforcement by working at Alcorn State University. After a brief stint with the college, he started at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department in 2000.

Winchester grew up in a tiny town in Jefferson County, northeast of Natchez, called Rodney, Miss.

His upbringing resulted in him seeing first hand what it means to be a public servant.

“The person I looked up to was my father,” Winchester said. “Ironically, we both mirrored each other’s occupations. He was in the military and also he worked at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department.”

Winchester saw that the Warren County Sheriff’s Department was hiring and he was hired in 2004.

With almost two decades with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, Winchester wears many hats.

Winchester has worked his way up the ranks and in 2006 was named detective for the Criminal Investigation Division. He also is a hostage crisis negotiator for the department. Winchester is also called on to investigate county fires as a county fire investigator. Lastly, one of the most notable positions Winchester serves is as the primary driving instructor at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officer Training Academy for the State of Mississippi located in Pearl.

With all these responsibilities, Winchester is a mild mannered man who enjoys being there for his community.

“My favorite part of serving on the sheriff’s department is that I get to help people,” Winchester said. “In today’s society, our job is centered around the public, so we always want the public to know we are available to them and it’s very crucial that we help everybody. If you can just help one person and touch one person’s life you can consider that a successful day.”

The people of Warren County are not the only people who recognize Winchester’s hard work. In 2017, he was recognized by Hon. Bennie G. Thompson in the House of Representatives by a Congressional Record for his service.

In the record, Thompson wrote, “I ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing, Det. Sam Winchester for his hard work, dedication and a strong desire to serve his country and community.”

After all of this success in his career, Winchester was asked to define a community hero.

“When you serve the public you dont put alot of thought into it being an individual community hero because it has so many moving parts to it,” he said. “Its a team effort. It’s not an individual effort. I look at everyone who serves the public and in law enforcement as a hero. Everyone who wakes up and puts on the uniform and risk their life to save someone else’s life or touch someone else’s life, that’s a hero.”

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Education

Mississippi native elected as Harvard student body president

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(photo courtesy Noah Harris)

A Mississippi high school graduate has been elected as Harvard University’s student body president.

Noah Harris, a 2018 graduate of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is the first African American to serve in the role at prestigious Harvard University in Massachusetts.

“I’m really grateful that the student body is entrusting me with such a historic and unprecedented moment,” Harris told WDAM. “To make the right moves and to really bring their voices to the forefront. I just never expected that I would be in a position to run for this.”

Harris is a junior and a political science major at Harvard. He served as treasurer on the finance committee in his first two years. His vice president and running mate is neuroscience major Jenny Gan. Both plan on making a difference at the university.

Harris and Gan will be sworn in Dec. 6.

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Vicksburg
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