Corps hires city native to guide newcomers

Published 11:29 pm Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nathan Beane needed a place to live when he moved to Vicksburg in 2011, not just for himself and his wife, but also for his bees.

Beane, a research forester, found his answers from Vicksburg native Logan Peterson Peay.

“Logan was a real lifesaver by not only helping us find a temporary apartment to rent and showing us around the town, but also helping to secure a safe haven for all of my beehives to stay until we found a home,” Beane said in an e-mail from Fort Knox, where he was conducting research. “Logan found me a place to keep the hives on land that her sister owned. It was a very nice thing for her to do for us.”

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Beane moved from Pennsylvania in December 2010, accepting a position with the Environmental Laboratory of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center on Halls Ferry Road.

Peay, a community orientation consultant, was awarded a contract by ERDC about six weeks ago to help potential and new employees navigate the city and get answers to their questions, whether it’s where to keep their beehives until they buy a home, which landlords will rent to tenants with giant breed dogs or where to get a Mississippi driver’s license. Before winning the center-wide contract she provided similar services for the Environmental Laboratory for about a year.

“I take care of them outside the fence,” Peay said.

“Logan won’t say it, but she has a natural talent for this,” said Dr. Peggy Wright, ERDC’s assistant director for Human Capital. “She always knows what’s going on. She knows a lot about the community.”

“My very first job was working at the tourist information center,” Peay said with a laugh.

Peay, 50, is a 1980 graduate of Porters Chapel Academy and received a degree in education at the University of Mississippi. She is the mother of three and president of the PTO at Vicksburg Catholic School, where her youngest, 16-year-old Peter Cauthen, is a junior at St. Aloysius High School.

Peay and her husband, Jim, also own Go-fer Girls, a private company that provides transportation to and from the Jackson-Evers International Airport. “Ninety-nine percent of the business is ERDC people,” she said. “I picked up someone that was moving here and he started asking questions” about grocery stores, the post office, recreation and other newcomer concerns. A light went on in her head.

Peay brought the idea to Dr. Beth Fleming, director of the EL, and soon found herself part of the lab’s pilot recruit and new employee orientation program.

Wright, who signed on at ERDC about two years ago “to make sure our employees are taken care of, from recruiting to separation,” took the program center-wide, initiating a bid process for the contract, which Peay was awarded.

Peay’s services include meeting with prospective employees when they come for interviews and providing information about Vicksburg, its history, culture and community services. If they get hired, she’s available to help them find their way around.

In addition, she provides packets of information that include recent publications, tourism and community guides, a brochure from the Vicksburg National Military Park and a handy list of “Things to Know When Moving to Vicksburg.”

“I consider myself as a kind of clearing house,” she said. “I try to get information people might need. You don’t want to overload them with stuff, but it’s for people who don’t know a thing about Vicksburg. We want them to come. We want them to stay.”

Public affairs specialist Kerry Larson took a job with ERDC a year ago, moving with his wife, Ellen, from Fort McCoy, Wisc., where he’d worked two years. Before that he spent three years in North Dakota and two in Utah, he said.

“Working for the government, you always get a welcome packet when you go to a new place,” Larson said. “This was my first experience where they actually had a person there to help. Logan spent the whole day with us. She took us around the city, showed us neighborhoods, even the vegetable stand south of the city. We just thought that was neat.”

While the Larsons leased a house in Tallulah, they’re house-hunting in the south Vicksburg area, he said.

“Our mission is to hire the best and the brightest, the most talented scientists and engineers that we can, as well as support staff,” said Wright. “Logan helps us make sure they are comfortable and puts the community’s best foot forward.”

“We could not have asked for a better introduction to the city of Vicksburg,” Beane said.