Best-selling authors to keynote annual meeting


National best-selling authors Deborah and James Fallows of Our Towns will be the keynote speakers at the Downtown Hattiesburg Annual Meeting set from noon-1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Historic Train Depot in downtown Hattiesburg.

Our Towns is the story of the Fallows’ journey throughout many communities in “flyover country” in the heart of America. During their travels and interactions, the Fallows identified key components that lead to success in small and mid-sized towns and cities. 

The Fallows will share these signs of civic success during their remarks at the annual meeting, highlighting that local resilience and adaptability create strong economies regardless of divisive national politics. 

Downtown Hattiesburg Association Executive Director Andrea Saffle says the Association’s leadership has worked diligently to achieve several of their strategic goals in 2018. As part of their overall plan for 2019, the association wanted to invite a nationally-recognized speaker to their annual meeting. 

“I truly believe that Hattiesburg is on the brink of big things,” Saffle said. “It has all the component parts to become ‘The Premier City of the Gulf South’. We have a diverse economy, two universities, a vast arts community, and, as the book encourages, we know our story. Where we have fallen short, until recent years, has been broad collaboration and a shared vision for Hattiesburg's future prosperity.

“In the Fallows’ book, each town talks in some way about the importance of breaking down silos and working together. Very soon you start to see a pattern emerge of what they call the ‘11 common signs a city will succeed’. My biggest hope is this visit and conversation spark more momentum for Hattiesburg.” 

David Ott is serving as the 2019 president of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association. 

“After reading the Fallows’ book, I am eager to hear what they have to say to us as a community, where they see us now, where we seem to be going, and share ideas of how to move the needle in a meaningful way,” Ott said. “I am ready to learn from them and make it part of our plan for developing downtown Hattiesburg.” 

During the 2019 annual meeting, Downtown Hattiesburg will also share a 2018 economic report for the downtown area, along with 2019 goals and an awards presentation to several local standouts. 

Tickets are $25 for association members and $30 for non-members.  Lunch is also included in ticket price.  Tickets are available for purchase on Eventbrite and Downtown Hattiesburg’s Facebook page. Advance ticket purchases are encouraged. 

James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic for more than 35 years, is the author of 11 books. During his career, Fallows reported from numerous countries and throughout the United States. He won the prestigious National Book Award and National Magazine Award. Fallows was also chief speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter. 

Deborah Fallows, Ph.D., is the author of two books and numerous articles highlighting women, work, education and travel. She has written for The Atlantic, National Geographic, The New York Times, and The Washington Monthly. A graduate of Harvard University, Fallows has also worked with Pew Research Center and Georgetown University.