George Holland

Mayor of Moorhead



George Holland has ended up right back where he first started, but in the best of ways.  Having grown up in Moorhead and moving away to live in St. Louis, Missouri, for many years, Holland has returned to his hometown and become its Mayor.  The Mississippi Traveler met with Mayor Holland and his beautiful wife Johnna in early June and was treated to some of Mississippi's finest hospitality.  What was expected to be a short chat and a couple of photographs turned out to be an intimate conversation followed by lunch and a town tour.  The Hollands could not have made the Traveler feel more welcome and their graciousness was most appreciated. 


Mayor George Holland and wife Johnna Holland 


We started out at Moorhead City Hall where I was greeted by Johnna Holland and taken to the Mayor's office where we began our discussion.  I first asked Mayor Holland what he had done after high school and the years following before returning to Moorhead.  The Mayor, a tall and calm-speaking man, told me about his marriage to Johnna at eighteen in Chicago, Illinois.  Their wedding day just happened to be the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and they spent their wedding night watching the rioting, looting and burning of a city.  Johnna described witnessing the looting of a neighborhood store, "We watched all night long as they took everything out of that store, everything." she said.  "And the next morning, they burned the store down."  The Hollands laugh about it now but I imagine it was quite a shock at the time to experience something like that on your wedding day.


Holland and his wife lived in Chicago for nine months but found the windy city too big and too fast for their tastes.  "We lived there for nine months.  I had a sister that lived in St. Louis and we visited there and liked it," Mayor Holland said.  "It was a slower pace, so we settled there," he continued.  The couple had two children.  Mr. Holland worked in the trucking industry.  "I always loved to drive.  Even when I was down here as a kid, I loved to drive.  So I couldn't have picked a better career.  I worked in the trucking business for thirty years for a great company named Holland."  Of course, we all laughed about that because how coincidental can you get -- Mr. Holland working for the Holland Company?  While Mr. Holland was driving trucks, Mrs. Holland went back to school and earned her bachelors and masters degrees and became a teacher specializing in reading.  Later, Mr. Holland also returned to college as well as earning ministry and leadership certifications from Missouri Baptist University. In addition to being Mayor of Moorhead, Holland is also an ordained minister and pastors a church in Duncan, Mississippi. 


When Holland retired after 30 years of service in the trucking business, the couple decided they wanted to return to a simpler life and ultimately chose to move back to their hometown.  Mayor Holland says he never expected to be the mayor of any town or that he would pastor a church.  "I was always a person that liked to do things with my hands," he said.  When asked why he decided to run for Mayor, Holland said it was at the urgings of those around him that started him on the political path.  Although Holland was considered to be an outsider by some because he had been away from Moorhead so long, he won the race to the Mayor's office by a wide margin.  Since becoming Mayor, Holland has been devoted to making the town better on all levels.  One of the locals, Annise James, stated that since Holland had taken office the town is much cleaner.  I learned later that Moorhead is taking advantage of a government program that pays senior citizens to work around town keeping the grounds clean of trash and debris. 


The Hollands have also dedicated themselves to helping the children of Moorhead by providing after school activities, including a tutoring program, and summer vacation programs.  They have formed an organization called The Friends of Moorhead's Children that is supported mostly by donations from former Moorhead residents.  To date, they have about 25 faithful contributors.  Contributions are used to buy supplies and snacks for the students and other necessities.  Students from the local Mississippi Delta Community College volunteer their time for tutoring students.  Computers are also available for the students to learn and improve their computer skills.  Mayor Holland has established a line of communication between the City of Moorhead and Mississippi Delta Community College which has resulted in partnerships such as the tutoring program whereby college students volunteer their tutoring services for the Friends of Moorhead's Children. 


Friends of Moorhead's Children learning center


After touring the learning center located across the street from city hall, we made a quick ten minute drive to Indianola and had lunch at the Crown Restaurant.  The Crown Restaurant is more than just a restaurant.  One side of the building is a gift shop filled with great boutique items -- all sorts of gourmet mixes and sauces, souvenirs and more.  The good-sized restaurant is decorated in country elegance (southern with a French twist) with lots of original oil paintings by local artists on the wall that can be purchased.  The food was also very good, including Crown's version of gumbo, which was nothing like the great seafood gumbo that you find on the Gulf Coast.  This gumbo was more like a hearty chicken soup -- no okra or seafood -- with lots of chicken and tomatoes.  Mayor Holland showed off his gardening and tasting expertise by correctly identifying the type of green bean -- Blue Lake Snap -- that was served with his entree.  The restaurant owner confirmed that the beans were indeed Blue Lake Snaps. 


The town tour after lunch included visiting the elementary school that both the Hollands and myself had attended as children.  James C. Rosser, the man who had been principal of East Moorhead Elementary School when we were there, and for many years afterwards, was retired and still living in Moorhead today.  The school has since been named James C. Rosser Elementary School.  One of the school's original wooden buildings is still intact, as well as the principal's old house next to the school.  The community college is a few blocks away and as we went by Mayor Holland commented on how good the food was at the college cafeteria, which was closed on this particular day.  The Mayor shared some of his visions for the town as we drove along the quiet, almost tranquil streets of Moorhead.  One of the things that Mayor Holland would like to see is more businesses in the area, especially businesses that give residents some local shopping options.  A supermarket and perhaps a Dollar General store are a couple of things being considered. 


I was also given the pleasure of visiting the Mayor's garden where he's growing his own green beans and lots of other things as well.  I was impressed with seeing broccoli in the garden.  Everything looked quite happy and was bearing fruit to prove it.  The Mayor also appeared to be a happy gardener as he showed the Traveler his tomatoes, squash, okra, and more. 


Mayor Holland's garden


Mayor Holland shared another one of his passions  -- his love for tractors.  He doesn't have just any old tractor.  The Mayor has a 1949 Ford tractor that he refurbished himself.  It was plain to see that he was pretty proud of that tractor. 


Mayor George Holland's 1949 Ford Tractor



What a delightful time the Mississippi Traveler had visiting with the Mayor and his wife.  George Holland is a great example of how not to forget where you came from.  Not only did Holland not forget, he came back and is giving back in a big way.  When the visit was over, the Traveler came away certain that Moorhead has a great Mayor who has the town's best interest at heart.     



--Rosalin Moss

June 2010