As you put away the purple, green and gold on Ash Wednesday, keep the green out a little longer. Especially if you plan to go to the fifth annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival in Long Beach.
The bash starts in the morning, with the festival kicking off the fun at Harper McCaughan Town Green on Jeff Davis Avenue downtown. The festival, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature Irish music, dancers, bagpipes, rides, craft and food vendors, games and live music.
The parade starts at 2 p.m. at Long Beach High School on North Cleveland Avenue, follows Railroad Street west to Jeff Davis Avenue, then goes south to East Fifth Street and takes a left to end on South Cleveland Avenue.
This year’s colleen is Connie Ladner, Harrison County circuit clerk, and the grand marshal is Jay Smith, superintendent of education for the Long Beach School District.
Ladner was elected Harrison County circuit clerk in November 2015 and took office Jan. 4, 2016.
She has 32 years of experience at the Circuit Clerk’s Office, having started immediately after graduating magna cum laude from St. John High School in 1984. She began under the leadership of Webb Lee and remained through Gayle Parker’s term, which began in January 1992.
During her tenure, she served as chief deputy circuit clerk for about 15 years. She has received numerous hours of job-specific training; attended ECAM training with the Harrison County Election Commission; management, and on-the-job training. She has been instrumental with the direction and conduction of the election process in addition to all other court-related duties of the circuit clerk. She was honored as Boss of the Year 2015-16 by the Gulf Coast Association of Legal Support Professionals.
A priority for her is to help increase voter education by visiting Harrison County schools to speak with students on the importance of voting and how each position affects us as citizens. In 2016, the circuit clerk and members of her staff visited all local high schools and registered more than 300 seniors to vote prior to the presidential election.
As circuit clerk, she hopes to help increase voter registration and voter participation and wants the circuit clerk’s office to become more involved in working with the community to expand the knowledge of the different aspects of the office.
Ladner is a breast cancer survivor and is a major advocate for awareness. She is a member of the Gulfport Kiwanis Club, Harrison County Republican Women and the Gulfport Business Club.
She has been married to Leroy Ladner for 30 years, and they have a 26-year-old son, Cody Ladner.
Smith serves as the superintendent of education for the Long Beach School District.
Prior to assuming this position, he served for 20 years in administrative roles, including assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and interim superintendent. He has served as an administrator at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Throughout the past 25 years he has served the children of Mississippi in the Jackson, Clinton, Hinds, Brookhaven and North Pike school districts.
In addition to his administrative experience, he has taught at the high school level and was an adjunct professor at Mississippi College in the areas of school law and school finance.
He is a veteran of the United States Army, where he served as an infantry soldier with the 5th Infantry Division. During his time in the military, he earned the Army Achievement Medal for his outstanding service while deployed to the Republic of Panama in 1989.
Smith is married to Michelle Smith, who is also a school administrator. Together, they have six children ranging in age from 5 to 19.