Petal named top town for young families

PETAL, MS (WDAM) - The "Friendly City" has now been named the best town in Mississippi to raise a family.

"It's not a surprise to me," said Adam Watkins of Delois Smith Realtors.

"To have someone else come in and recognize what we've always known to be true is absolutely wonderful," said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Chamber of Commerce.

A consumer advocacy web site called Nerd Wallet measured towns across the state on three major factors: quality of public schools, affordability, and prosperity and growth.

"It's a city that's got a lot of amenities yet it's got that small town feeling that people like," said Mayor Hal Marx."I think there's a lot of good reasons to be here."

One of the major factors in this report was the quality of schools. Petal School District is ranked as an "A" school, and Petal superintendent Dr. John Buchanan says that is a key factor to a thriving community.

"The school district and Petal are one and the same." Said Buchanan. "The school is the city, and the city is part of the school district.>

Quality of life was also an element considered in the report, and Wilson says the city strives to make Petal a family-friendly town.

"During the summer, our recreation departments hosts world series youth softball teams," said Wilson. "We have great recreational facilities, and we all work together to promote our area, to promote fun things for our families to do that they don't have to spend a lot of money doing."

The attraction to Petal is nothing new. The report shows that the city has seen a 74 percent growth since 1999.

"I think the thing about Petal that attracts families is that it's kind of a whole community with its own identity," said Watkins. "They [residents] can get to Hattiesburg, and they can get to places really easily. But they enjoy being able to feel like they're a part of an actual community."

Watkins says many of the people that move to Petal are young families with a focus on their children's future. Dr. Buchanan says the school district's success is evident across the board.

"If you're into academics, we've got all the academics you need," said Buchanan. "If your child is into music, we've got so much fine arts you can't stand it. If you're really interested in athletics, we've got an incredible athletic department."

Just as the whole city benefits from this acknowledgement, the road to this success is credited to many.

"Anytime you come in at number one on a list like this it makes you feel really good," said Marx. "It's an accomplishment that should go to a lot of people."

For a full list of the towns featured in the report, visit

Copyright 2013 WDAM. All rights reserved.