Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Small Town, Big Mayor airs Thursday (3/31) @ 9:30 PM (ET) on UP TV.
The small town of D’Lo, Mississippi has one town hall, one masonic lodge, 240 cows, three swimming holes, 74 rocking chairs, three churches and 456 big-hearted residents, including Mayor John Henry Berry who is absolutely passionate about his ambitious 95-point plan to revitalize his beloved-but-struggling town. At the mayor’s side is Ruth Griffin, who, like Berry, was born and raised in D’Lo. She is also powerful institution in local politics and was the first town board member to endorse John Henry when he announced he was running for mayor.
In addition to his official duties as Mayor, Berry is also a loving husband and father, a 4H gun instructor, Sunday school teacher, a parish drummer, a volunteer fireman, as well as the unofficial town landscaper, plumber, critter catcher, lifeguard and maintenance man. You can also add the voice of the Simpson High Cougars to the list.
As Mayor, Berry earns $480 a month, so he also works full-time as an air conditioning service manager at Climate Masters in the nearby town of Pearl. He was elected Mayor with all but 18 votes, however, he knows that he’ll only be able to stay in office if he can make his dreams of a revitalized D’Lo a reality.
TV series have been built on less — and I’d kinda like to see this friendly reality show elected as a full-fledged series. In fact, if UP really wanted to get ambitious about it, I could this concept being developed into charming scripted series — a sort of Mayberry for a new generation.
I recently had the opportunity to put some questions to the mayor — who sort of has me thinking that he just may be worth considering should a certain political party find itself hosting a contested, deadlocked convention. Just kidding, sorta.
JWK: How did the idea for Small Town, Big Mayor come about?
MAYOR JOHN HENRY BERRY: A good friend of mine, Russell Knight, starred in a show called Mounted in Alaska. Russell said that most mayors aren’t willing to put their hands on everything in town, and he really thinks there isn’t another mayor like me. So he wanted to introduce me to some guys that were filming him at the time. He connected me with American Chainsaw and the idea of the show took shape from there.
JWK: How has your family and the people of D’Lo reacted to having a TV crew following you around?
JHB: At first, everyone was not too sure about having “Hollywood” and their cameras out and about in D’Lo. But after meeting the owners, producers and crew members from American Chainsaw, the citizens of D’Lo were behind me 100%. My family has officially adopted the crew. We’ve introduced them to sweet tea and fried catfish. This is a great group to work with.
JWK: How did the town get its name?
JHB: There are many theories on how the name “D’lo” came about. The most widely accepted is derived from the French word “de l’eau” which means “water.” The actual origin of the name is unknown, but many believe that D’lo is a shortened version of the French word.
JWK: What would you like people to know about D’Lo?
JHB: This is the friendliest town in the United States of America, and you can take that to the bank!
JWK: How did you become the mayor?
JHB: I grew up in D’lo and have always wanted to be a leader in my town. I started out on the board of alderman under a great mayor, Emory Veazey, who inspired me to eventually run for mayor after his retirement. I have a passion for the town and the people of D’lo. My family has been in D’lo for 5 generations. I grew up hearing stories of D’lo’s glory days when the population was over 6,000. Now we have 456 when everyone is home, and we desperately need grants to help maintain our infrastructure because we no longer have the tax base to support the town. I fight for the future of my town every day.
JWK: The show is something like a cross between Duck Dynasty and Mayberry — with lots of colorful characters, including yourself. Can you tell me something about some of the characters and relationships?
JHB: Mrs. Ruth Griffin and I have worked together for 12 years for the town of D’lo. She is always supportive of my endeavors. She also knows how to reign me in and keep me focused on the task at hand. Tony and B-baby are my lifelong friends. I can always depend on them for help. We always have a good time together. My family understands that my job as mayor requires a lot of my time and attention which in turn, requires their time and attention on my various projects. I have 5 kids and view them as my free labor pool. My wife just takes it all in and never hesitates to give me her opinion. And me, well, I’m just a hands-on kind of guy. If it needs fixing and I can figure it out, then why would I need to pay someone else? My job is not behind a desk. My job is out in the community making sure my citizens have what they need. I fix water lines, change light bulbs, catch dogs, fix sewer pumps, program remotes, and just about anything else you can think of. I’m always just a call away.
JWK: Did you watch The Andy Griffith Show as a kid?
JHB: Absolutely! D’lo really is a modern day Mayberry.
JWK: What happens if the show is a success? Do you think it will change your town?
JHB: We thank the Lord Jesus Christ every day for the chance to introduce D’lo to the world, and I think the same Savior that gave us that chance will keep us humble. I hope the show is successful and that it will generate tourism and create revenue to revitalize my town. That’s my goal. I think any changes the town will undergo will be good, positive changes. I would never want the people to change, though. They are all so genuine and caring.
JWK: What do you see in your future?
JHB: I’d like to give tours of D’lo from my golf cart. D’lo had more men and women per capita serving in WWII than any other town or hamlet in America. I would like to reopen the museum and showcase our WWII veterans. I want to see Main Street full of shops and maybe a restaurant or two. I want to show America that D’lo is not the biggest, but it is the BEST!
John W. Kennedy is a writer/development consultant specializing in teleplays, screenplays and novelizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11