PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - History was made in Jackson County on Wednesday, and throughout the state.
For the first time, residents could attend a hospital board of trustees meeting thanks to an amendment in the state's open meetings law.
However, it was a muted celebration for the 20-plus retirees who attended the first public meeting of the Singing River Health System board of trustees - the fight to open the meetings isn't the end for them. It's the beginning.
"I think it's a very important step that's been made today as far as having an open meeting," said retiree Cynthia Almond. "I think hopefully this will turn into a good thing."
It was Almond's initial lawsuit that kept the pension plan alive until a resolution could be addressed. The fight eventually led to a change in the open meetings law.
But Wednesday's meeting, while a good beginning, didn't address her issues about the pension.
"Personally, I think it was very well rehearsed," Almond said. "But I do know that we worked hard to get this and I hope that more transparency can come forth from this. And that the hospital can turn things around."
It was a first for everyone, and a chance for CEO Kevin Holland to orient the new trustees on the board who replaced those who resigned as part of an agreement reached in a federal class action lawsuit.
"I appreciate ya'lls courage and willingness to step up," Holland told the board. "And I think you're going to enjoy and relish your opportunity. I say it often, and of course I'm biased, but I believe this is the number one community asset that is owned by Jackson County."
SRHS spokesperson Richard Lucas says for a first meeting, it was good.
"There's a lot of new faces and then of course, the new atmosphere here with the open meetings," Lucas said. "But I think things went really well."
District 5 Supervisor Randy Bosarge agreed that it was an epic first step.
"I believe it'll put hospital systems on notice and other agencies on notice to know that hey, it's time for transparency in not only our county but the state and hopefully keep things in checks and balances," added Bosarge.
During the meeting, Jeffrey Belk was elected the new president of the board; Don Barron, vice president; and Larry Cosper, secretary treasurer.
There are three trustee positions left to be filled.