Business News for the Mississippi Delta

Daniel Boggs

CEO of Greater Greenville and a Forward Thinking Visionary

By Jack Criss  •  Photography by Johnny Jennings

Daniel Boggs is a living refutation of Leo Derocher’s famous statement that “nice guys finish last.”

    First of all, you couldn’t meet a nicer man than Boggs, currently the Chief Executive Officer of Greater Greenville—what he has shortened from the “official” names of the three entities he oversees: Greater Greenville Housing & Revitalization Association, Inc., the Greater Greenville Development Foundation and Main Street Greenville. 

Second, far from being last, Boggs has overseen the revitalization of his adopted home of Greenville in ways that, twenty years ago, might have been unthinkable or beyond realization.

So, no, this nice guy doesn’t finish last. Not at all. And he won’t stop working until he puts Greenville, Mississippi first, as a matter of fact.

Surprisingly,  the work Boggs currently puts his heart and soul into—essentially economic and community development—was not what he initially envisioned at all for a career path. That would have been as a landscape architect.

“Yes, it’s true,” laughs Boggs. “When I graduated from Mississippi State in 2004 with my Landscape Architect Degree, I immediately moved to Miami, Florida to pursue my career, a place where I could get involved in really cool, interesting projects. And I did. I worked on two Super Bowl projects, the Florida Everglades restoration project, the West Palm Beach bridge, the redevelopment of several well-known boulevards in Miami—and other really fun and challenging deals.”

Boggs says that in Miami, as in other major markets, landscape architects can thrive in their careers. That is not so true in Mississippi though, as Boggs soon discovered.

“I returned to Mississippi as part of the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts,” he says, “but I knew sustainable design techniques and some engineering through my education at MSU with my degree and community development and planning fits into that, as well. That’s why, now, I simply tell people that my profession is a developer.”

When Boggs says he returned to Mississippi, he’s referring to his birthplace of Florence, located just south of Jackson in Rankin County. 

“When I was growing up there, the population was only about 1800,” he says. “Of course, it’s much bigger now. Later in life, when I tell people I was from Florence, they assumed it was the town in Alabama. But then I would mention the famous igloo on Hwy. 49 South and immediately everybody knew where I was talking about,  the iconic Jerry’s Catfish House!”

His parents, Vic and Nedra Boggs, were high school sweethearts who were also born and raised in Florence. They fell in love on their senior trip in high school and married six months later, says Boggs. “My brother David was born first and he now lives in Olive Branch, and then I came along in 1980,” he says.

Boggs’ father ended up becoming part-owner of Leonard Metal Fabricators, a sheet metal shop in Pearl, where he had worked his way up starting as a high school employee. And his mother was a well-known and accomplished insurance agent who spent most of her life working for Barksdale Bonding and Insurance in Jackson. 

“They were both incredibly hard workers,” he says. “My mother ended up being one of their top sales agents before she finished her career working for Regions Bank after Barksdale bought them out. They’re both retired now and love camping!” he says.

Boggs graduated from Florence High School in 1999, playing every sport he could, and called his childhood rather idyllic. 

“We always called Florence ‘Mayberry’ back then,” recalls Boggs. “In fact, growing up there, I can remember only one murder ever occurring and that was during an early morning robbery. Doors were left unlocked, all the kids rode their bike everywhere and I even grew up in a house that my father built, doing everything but laying the brick. Everyone in my family were do-it-yourself types so I learned that early on, as well.”

Boggs spent two years at Hinds Community College before going to Mississippi State and on to Miami, he says. “I actually got my first job offer in landscaping after my junior year at State. A company that did a lot of work in Starkville was Arazoza Brothers, and I got to know their owner, Albert Arazoza, who was a huge supporter of MSU campus landscaping. We played golf together and he had a job lined up for me before I had even graduated. That’s how I ended up in Miami,” says Boggs.

After leaving Arazoza in August, 2005, Boggs went on to work with other companies over the next two years in project and landscape design as well as land planning work. He also spent time as an Alpine Camp Counselor even before working in Miami, a Christian camp for college kids in Alabama where he mentored the youth in a true back to nature atmosphere with no electronic devices allowed. 

“It was a wonderful experience for me, where working together and the Christian faith were emphasized in a way that made these young people better as individuals,” he says.

Fast forward to November, 2007 when Boggs went to work for the Mississippi Development Authority in Jackson as a bureau manager, spending nearly six and a half years there. 

“That’s what brought me back to Mississippi and, initially, I provided support to for-profit, non-profit and local units of government to build, reconstruct and rehabilitate about 2,200 units for low-to-moderate income families on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” says Boggs. “I was recruited to MDA by Brian McDonald, who had been appointed by Governor Haley Barbor as head of recovery after the hurricane. I had known Brian when I worked as a runner for Ott and Purdy law firm in Jackson during high school and he was aware of my community development background, so I came back.”

Plus, Boggs says, three of his grandparents had passed away around the same time that McDonald reached out, and he knew it was time to come back to Mississippi. 

Boggs also formed Boggs and Associates while at MDA, where he worked from July, 2006 to July, 2011. “During all this time, with MDA and my own consulting firm, I learned all about grants and grant writing, rules and regulations of federal funding, community development and many other skills which I use every day now in Greenville. Learning these things, coupled with my landscaping and building background, set me up perfectly for my current position.”

Boggs learned of the opening in Greenville for a CEO to run the Greater Greenville Housing and Revitalization Association from Ben Mokry, the vice-president of the Mississippi Home Corporation at the time. “I applied for the job in late 2011 and, after a long process and several interviews, was named CEO in July, 2012 and have been here ever since.”

When Boggs came aboard, he met with banker Chuck Jordan who endorsed him for the job. Boggs and his wife, Hillary, who had married in 2010 and were then living in Madison in Lake Caroline proceeded to make the move to the River City. 

“Hillary was the best friend of my sister-in-law in high school,” says Boggs of how he and his future wife met. “They introduced us and we clicked.  Hillary is a graduate of Millsaps College and received numerous awards as an undergraduate student. She also graduated from the Millsaps College Else School of Management as their top MBA student.” 

The couple now have two children, Hannah, who is twelve, and Haley, who is nine.

“We came up to Greenville just a few short months after we had Hannah,” recalls Boggs. “I had built this great nursery for her in our home in Madison but, of course, she never spent a minute in it!” laughs Boggs. “But, we were still excited about the new opportunity in Greenville and thought we could make a positive change, which was our ultimate driver in getting here.”

However, the couple didn’t know a soul when they arrived until they decided to have dinner on their very first night in Greenville after leaving their rental house. It was at Sherman’s and the co-owner, Peter Nimrod, came up to their table, introduced himself and actually offered the couple tickets to see a play after their meal at Delta Center Stage.

“He asked if we’d like to join him and his kids, and we said, ‘Sure!’ It just went to show how nice people can be here and, of course, Peter and Allison remain friends of ours,” says Boggs.  

“Daniel Boggs has been making a huge difference here in Greenville with his work in providing safe, affordable and decent housing,” says that first friend he made, Mississippi Levee Board Director, Peter Nimrod. “Under his leadership as Chief Executive Officer, the Greater Greenville Housing has built forty-two townhouses called The Reserves at Ed Gray Park and they have renovated dilapidated apartments such as the Les Lane Apartment Complex and the Cypress Pointe Apartments. Greenville’s downtown had also fallen into disarray over the past decade.  

“One family owned eighteen properties downtown and they were not interested in fixing them up or leasing them out. In 2021, Greater Greenville purchased these eighteen properties and they are busy remodeling them and getting businesses to relocate back downtown. This work is helping to completely turn around downtown Greenville and this will revitalize the heart of Greenville,” continues Nimrod. 

“The old Levee Board office at the intersection of Main and Walnut Streets was converted to the Greenville Inn & Suites Hotel in 1996 and was operated by the Trop Casino. In 2020 they decided to not renew the lease. In 2021, I asked Daniel if the Greater Greenville Development Foundation would be interested in purchasing the property to run as a hotel. Daniel and his board jumped at the chance and they remodeled the hotel and reopened it as Hotel 27 in August, 2021. Hotel 27 is doing great and is the only historic hotel in downtown Greenville,” says Nimrod.

“Daniel has a lot of positive energy and he is a hard worker and he and Greater Greenville are helping revitalize Greenville in incredible ways,” he says.

Nimrod named many of Boggs’ accomplishments since he has been CEO and the list of other such accomplishments are almost too many to mention. From an initial staff of three in 2012, Boggs now oversees a staff of twenty today and is the director of the world famous Delta Hot Tamale Festival, the state’s biggest cultural food festival which brings visitors from all across the nation. The Festival recently won a national award.

“We have a great board of directors behind us and the support of the community,” says Boggs. “Moving the needle and making a positive change is what drives me every single day.”

Boggs and Greater Greenville are currently spearheading a $20 million downtown revitalization initiative that will bring some fifty-two additional housing units and twenty-three commercial spaces, which has earned the organization national recognition. And Boggs says that such work is only just beginning and the best is, literally, yet to come.

“It seems like every week we’re making progress on some different front,” enthuses Boggs. “That’s what it’s all about.”

And that’s also why nice guys like Daniel Boggs will finish first. And Greenville will be right there with him.