In his more than 20 years in the Mississippi Legislature – six years in the Mississippi House of Representatives and 15 in the Mississippi Senate – Sen. Joey Fillingane has always gone above and beyond to help his home town of Sumrall, including procuring $500,000 to assist the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Rails-To-Trails Recreational District.
For those efforts, officials from that district on Nov. 9 dedicated the Longleaf Trace Mill Creek Bridge at Sumrall to Fillingane, changing the name to the Joey Fillingane Bridge. The announcement was made during a ceremony near the Sumrall Community Center, where a proclamation was issued before the new name on the bridge was unveiled.
“Nobody does anything by themselves on the Legislature; it’s a team effort,” said Fillingane, who represents Senate District 41. “So I accept this on behalf of my fellow colleagues in the Legislature.
“I do think this trail is so important to this area … and it’s important not only from just a recreational quality of life standpoint, but there’s a lot of people that plan trips here now. There are even tiny houses built along the trace, and people come from out of state and stay for a couple of days or for the weekend to spend time here. It’s an economic driver for the Pine Belt.”
Fillingane, an attorney, graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and the Mississippi College School of Law. He served in the House from 2000 to 2006 before being elected to the Senate in 2007, where he has served since.
He is a member of the National Rifle Association, the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce, the Covington County Chamber of Commerce and Forestry Association, and is a member of the Mississippi Bar.
“Ever since (Fillingane) was first elected, he’s had a big influence on a lot of projects in this area,” said Dale Lucus, who serves as District 5 Sueprvisor on the Lamar County Board of Supervisors. “He has really gone above and beyond the responsibilities of a senator to make sure the Sumrall area has been the recipient of a lot of money that otherwise we probably wouldn’t have had.”
As far as committees, Fillingane has served on the Judiciary, Medicaid, Elections, Finance, Highways and Transportation, Legislative Budget, Public Health and Welfare, and Universities and Colleges committees. His district represents Forrest, Lamar, Covington, Jefferson Davis and Smith counties.
In March 2020, officials from the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Rails-To-Trails Recreational District requested financial assistance from Fillingane through the Legislature for repairs on seven bridges along the Longleaf Trace in Lamar and Jefferson Davis counties. Fillingane was able to help obtain the $500,000 through Senate Bill 2969 from the BP Settlement Fund, which paid reparations for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010.
“(The trace) is not just a quality of life issue; it’s about bringing people in to spend money and stay in our community for a while,” Fillingane said. “It’s great exposure for our area, and it also means dollars in the bank too, so we’re very excited about the trace.
“We’re going to continue working on it … because it’s 21 or 22 years old now, and things start breaking down after so many years of asphalt and wood pilings. So there’s constant (improvements) that have to take place.”