By Jim Bridges
A lot of people have visited Cumberland County, liked what they saw and eventually bought a house. Can Betty Gates be included in that group? Well, yes and no. She came to Cumberland County to visit her brother who had retired from the United States Air Force. He took her on a tour of the area, including a drive through Tansi on Dunbar Rd. One of his neighbors, a real estate agent, also took her on a tour where he showed her a number of houses, one of which she bought. It was just two days after she arrived at her brother’s house. Here’s how she described the moment: “I have landed on my mountain.” That was near the end of 2008.
Gates was born in Jackson, Ms., the youngest of six children. Her dad was employed by Phillips Petroleum and was transferred to Lafayette, La. It was there that she graduated from high school. She enjoyed singing and participating in plays. Lafayette is in the heart of Cajun country, and she became interested in Cajun culture. Gates graduated from the University of Southwest Louisiana, now listed as the University of Louisiana. Her field was interior design.
Later, she moved into commercial design. After a construction company completed the exterior of a building, she custom designed the interior. When a shake-up occurred in the oil industry, she moved to Biloxi, on the Mississippi Gulf coast, and worked in real estate and design.
Gates loved being around water and the pleasant, peaceful environment. However, that all changed in 2005 when hurricane Katrina hit. It is one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. “Our house took a hit,” she remembers.
After the storm, she worked with the mayor’s office helping coordinate cleanup. Betty was active in the city and served as president of the Chamber of Commerce. Her two sons and two grandsons still reside in Biloxi.
Recently, I had the privilege of sitting down with Gates. I learned that she and her sons had been to Tennessee several years ago on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. I asked what impressed her most about this area in general. “The beauty – it’s so clean. I can see the sky at night and the stars. It’s quiet and peaceful.” My next question was how she pictured these areas: Cumberland County – “Peaceful.” Crossville – “A small town feeling with a warm atmosphere.” Lake Tansi Village – “A hidden gem. Extremely friendly – a good mix – a ‘laid back’ casual atmosphere.”
It was obvious to me that Gates is like so many of us who have taken up residence in Tansi – she has fallen in love with our village. She is anxious to begin her new job. She wants to meet as many residents as quickly as possible. As to the type of management style we can expect, she replied: “Hands-on with an emphasis on consistency and fairness.” She is a goal setter. “Action is universal for success,” she said. “I want to get people involved and keep them involved. Her credo is “Breathe life into your dreams. Success is achieved when people work together to achieve unity of community. Every day is a gift – we need to make the most of it. I am not afraid to try new and different ways to do things. I am not afraid to admit if and when I make a mistake.”
Gates feels she made the right decision moving to Cumberland County and now into the Tansi Recreation Director’s job. She is comfortable with where she is. The mayor of Biloxi would like for her to come back and get involved again. But she is happy on “her mountain.” She wants to become more involved and get others involved, too.