If today feels like just another normal day at East Central Community College, President Billy Stewart believes he has done his job.
Stewart’s final day serving as the ECCC President was Tuesday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no receptions or ceremonies honoring Stewart’s time as president. Other than the campus being closed to the public, it might seem like a fairly normal day.
“That’s really the way I would like it to be,” Stewart said in an interview Monday. “Tuesday is going to be just like any other day while I’ve been here. The only difference is when I leave here at 4 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, I won’t be coming back on Wednesday.
“I want the transition to be as smooth as possible. So if Wednesday doesn’t feel much different from Tuesday other than the fact that a new president is coming in here, then I think I’ve done my job.”
Stewart finished his eight-year tenure. East Central Community College has experience growth, some of which can be easily seen with the building of new facilities, growth of the student body population and achievement. Some aren’t as noticeable when it comes to the infrastructure improvements the campus has seen.
Stewart credits a lot of that success to developing their 2020 strategic plan that they created, implemented and have been executing. While he is proud of the accomplishments the college has had over the that time, he doesn’t want to take the credit for those successes.
“A lot of that success is due to our 2020 strategic plan,” Stewart said. “We had a good plan, and we have been working on that plan the whole time I have been here. Everyone worked together on that plan, and we have all been working together to see it through.
“I don’t have a personal sense of accomplishment for what we’ve done, but it have a sense of accomplishment for all of us together. It’s not anything that I have done, but it’s a credit to our board of trustees, our faculty and staff and our students.”
Stewart said a lot of the success goes back to the board of trustees for showing leadership and their support for the college.
“This is a great board of trustees,” Stewart said. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with this board for the last eight years, especially with our board chairman Dr. Jimmy Hollingsworth. We have become very good friends over the last eight years. I appreciate everything that they do to support us.”
Stewart will especially miss getting to interact with the students. During his first year, he said a couple of students came by and asked if they could pray with him. That small group would meet with Stewart. They would share things going on in their lives, and they would pray together regularly. After those students graduated, Stewart said God would raise up others to come and pray with him.
“Those are the things that I will miss the most,” Stewart said. “Students would drop by my office and say, ‘Hello.’ I would be walking around campus, and many of them would come up to me and talk with me. Sometimes, I would be escorting a visitor around campus, and they would see us talking. They would tell me that we have the most well-mannered students. I would tell them that we have the cream of the crop here.”
Now as he begins retirement, Stewart said he will enjoy getting to spend time with his family, especially his daughter Emily who will be a senior at Newton County High School this year. They are renting a house in the county and they intend to spend at least the next year here as Emily finishes high school.
“She told me that she would like to finish high school here, but she said she would be willing to do whatever God wanted me to do,” Stewart said. “My family has been so supportive of me in the things that I’ve felt God wanted me to do. And this job has allowed me to spend a lot more quality time with my family and my children.
“My wife has been wonderful. I have not always told her everything about what’s going on here with my job, but she has trusted me that I would let her know the things that she needed to know. She has covered for me in instances when I couldn’t be there. I’m excited that I am going to get to spend more time with her and Emily.”
What’s next for Stewart is still up in the air. For the next 90 days, Stewart will be honoring the 90-day separation from employment required by the Public Employment Retirement System of Mississippi. After that, it is still up in the air.
“I don’t know what’s next,” Stewart said. “God has not let me know what that is right now. The one thing I do know is that I will continue honor the 90-day separation period required by PERS. After that, we’ll see. I’m excited about what is next.”