By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Millington’s native daughter Debby Clifton is common sight around Flag City.
Her hometown serves as a platform for her to be active in Millington Central High School athletics, Millington Municipal Schools and at the First United Methodist Church. Clifton’s dedication to ball players, students, youth at her church and her children Hannah and Tommy led to The Millington Star readers voting her 2019 Readers’ Choice Woman of the Year.
“It’s an honor because I really love this town and this community,” Clifton said. “I love the kids who make up the community. So it’s really an honor.”
Clifton is the secretary and receptionist at MMS. With both her children playing varsity sports at MCHS, she takes on the role of “Team Mom” on booster clubs. Then at FUMC, the lifelong member is now a leader in the Children’s Ministry while working with the youth.
Clifton’s 9 to 5 is with Millington Municipal School giving her multiple interactions with children and their parents. Her colleagues say, “If you need to know something about our schools, just ask Ms. Debby.”
“I used to think it was kind of funny,” Clifton acknowledged. “Then I begin to realize why they were doing it. It’s because I’m going to shoot it straight. I’m going to tell you the good and the bad. I’m going to balance the good with the bad every single time. I’m going to be real but I’m also going to let you know this is where you need to have your kids.
“We offer a lot of things I feel you can’t get anywhere else,” she added. “We have personal relationships. Our people are invested and I’ve told people this, ‘You’re not going to get a Ms. Debby if you go somewhere else. Nobody is going to love you like I love you.’”
Clifton’s love is on display as she attends games, concerts and academic events involving Millington students. The 41-year-old graduated from MCHS in 1996.
While pursuing her degree in Marketing and Public Relations, she is exercising her college studies by promoting the children, faculty and staff of MMS.
“I always feel like I could do more and be more,” she said. “I try to instill that in my kids even when I talk about being a mother. I feel like because I know that I could be more that makes me want to strive to be more. Being a Christian, I know we all strive to be better and a better Christian. Because I am not there yet, I know there is always room for improvement.”
With a busy schedule, Clifton finds time to support daughter Hannah, a senior two-sport athlete at Millington and son Tommy, who is a junior dual sport athlete for the Trojans.
Hannah was a part of the historic Region championship volleyball team at Millington and has been a starter in softball since her freshman year. Younger brother Tommy earned the starting quarterback spot for the Trojans as a freshman. This past season he guided Millington Football to the Region championship.
Now Tommy is preparing for the upcoming baseball season. The Clifton siblings are a consistent sight for the Black and Gold not only in uniform. Hannah is a Mat Girl for the wrestling team and common part of the Student Section at games. Nearby is Tommy rooting on his peers and he can be found assisting with the SPED department.
“I think every kid is important,” Debby said. “Obviously I think my kids are important. I want to set an example for my kids to want to be able to comeback as they see the community thing in effect. I think community is an action verb just like love is an action verb.
“If you put that community into effect, it will circle back,” she continued. “Hopefully the kids that I’m hopefully impacting will come back and want to be a part of the kids who will be here when they are adults. Very, very proud of them. They’re good kids. They’re kind. They want kids to be better and see their peers succeed.”
Clifton said she instilled Christian, family and community values in her children because it will benefit them and Millington for years to come.
“I want my kids to be proud of where they come from,” she said. “I’m proud of where we come from. I’ve lived here my whole life. One of the biggest pet peeves was I feel like people have always looked down on Millington. I remember growing up and somebody referring to Millington as the armpit of Shelby County. It always resinated with me because we’re not.”
Working alongside MMS Superintendent James “Bo” Griffin, Clifton is on a mission to spread the good word about Millington’s future.
“Like Coach G has always said, ‘Come meet our kids,’” she said. “That’s why I tell my kids and the football players, baseball players, volleyball players and softball players ‘I need you go out in the community and meet people. I love you but I want people to see why I love you.’ These kids are special and they can be impactful as long as they know what they can bring to the table. They have to believe in themselves.”
Clifton shows the children she believes in them with her presence at events, sharing success stories on social media and creating a brag board at the Central Office. She is also teaming up with MCHS instructor Chasity Guy to create a formal dress closet with the FCCLA program to give students an affordable alternative for prom.
“I want to be the support system,” she said. “If I can make sure a kid sees me at there event that is important to them, that’s what I want. Along the way I want to network and make the connections for next group of kids who are going to come up and I want to know what direction those kids need to be going in.
“I hope they believe in what I am doing and see that what I do is impactful,” Clifton concluded. “Then maybe people will jump onboard and see what they can do. Because what I am doing is working.”