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Callison Richardson – Building Community Through Relationships

May 11, 2021


I’m the out-of-stater on the Economic Development team, but I think that gives me a unique perspective on Hattiesburg and Mississippi. Six years ago, my husband and I moved to Hattiesburg from Columbia, South Carolina when he accepted a history professorship with William Carey University. I left my role as the Director of Education Partnerships and Public Policy for the United Way of the Midlands to embark on a new adventure. Relocating for a spouse means starting over professional and personally – you have to learn about a new place and its people, build a new network, and figure out where your gifts and experiences intersect with the area’s greatest needs. Fortunately, Hattiesburg is a warm and welcoming place, eager to make outsiders feel at home. Since arriving here, I’ve worked hard to get to know the community, find places to serve, build relationships, and make an impact. Now, Hattiesburg is not only home for us, a place that has loved us South Carolinians well, but it also is a place I am passionate about serving and feel very much a part of.

After completing a Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Georgia, I’ve spent over a decade working for local and national non-profits, with missions ranging from improving K-12 education and advocacy for low-income families to workforce programs and economic development, always with an eye towards building community. For me, community development is about forming relationships across socioeconomic, racial, and geographic lines and leveraging resources. It’s about bringing people together to build a community that’s vibrant, connected, healthy, and equitable. Non-profit work has always been a great fit for me, because of the variety it offers in the day-to-day. It requires wearing a lot of hats, working with people from different backgrounds, and building unity and consensus to improve the quality of life for all people. I’ve been a project manager, fundraiser, grant writer, lobbyist, event planner, recruiter, school Principal and science teacher (and even a cheerleading coach). That’s why serving as the Community Development Director for the ADP has been such a blessing for me. It is a role that provides an opportunity to use the gifts, experiences, and passion the Lord has built into me to serve others.

Not every chamber and economic development organization has the robust community development platform that the ADP has developed and prioritized, and Greater Hattiesburg is a better place because of it. The Board of Directors and leadership of the ADP see community development as an integral part of our economic development efforts. Vibrant communities win. On any given day, I’m working to support the Pre-K Collaboratives and our CTE partners at local high schools, helping a local entrepreneur secure financing to launch a new business, organizing an event that will expose a thousand 8th and 9th graders to the amazing job opportunities right in their backyards, collaborating with elected officials to advocate for important policies, and figuring out ways to leverage opportunities to make the biggest impact. One of my favorite parts is being a behind-the-scenes connector, helping make good things happen without anyone knowing I was involved. Every day, I see needs and opportunities all over our city and I get to work faithfully with our dynamic Economic Development team as we seek to make Greater Hattiesburg an even better place to live –

a place that provides opportunities for all children to succeed in school and become contributing members to our society (and our future leaders!),

a place where all sectors (public, private, higher education, and nonprofit) work together to unlock the incredible human potential in youth and adults to provide a strong workforce and vibrant community,

a place where local businesses can thrive and new companies want to locate,

a place that inspires us all to get involved.

It is an honor to serve in this remarkable role and to work with a group of leaders passionate about improving the quality of life for everyone in Forrest, Lamar, and Perry counties. One of my favorite quotes belongs to John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” That’s what I try to do every day at the ADP and it’s a blessing to do that alongside this team and for this community.

Callison Richardson
Community Development Director, Economic Development
Twitter: @Callison_RR
LinkedIn: Connect with Callison