Published on August 16, 2019

Arnett Retires from NMMC-West Point Wellness Center

Tracy Stebbins Arnett retirement

The NMMC-West Point Wellness Center staff bid farewell to their founding director, Tracy Stebbins Arnett (center), with a reception in her honor Aug. 16 after 26 years of service.

Tracy Stebbins Arnett, director of wellness at North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point, retired Aug. 16 with more than 26 years of service to the hospital and the community.

A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Arnett graduated from Stranahan High School in 1982. A serious ballet dancer from the age of 6, she performed with the Broward Civic Ballet and had aspirations of making it big on Broadway. But after her mother’s untimely death in 1981, she stopped dancing.

She enrolled at Broward Community College but soon realized she needed a job to continue her studies. “This was at the beginning of the fitness craze, around the time that Jane Fonda hit the aerobics scene,” Arnett said. Scandanavian Health Spa, which later became Bally Health Spa, hired Arnett to teach aerobics classes at their studios within a 50-mile radius.

“I was a Candy Colby aerobics instructor—she was a well-known fitness instructor. It was like being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader,” she said. “We taught on stage and would have 40-50 people in a class. We had flashy uniforms and would perform at community events throughout the area.”

In January 1985, Arnett moved to Starkville to study fitness management at Mississippi State University and soon took a job at Willy Daniels Health Club. In 1986 she joined the staff of Oktibbeha County Hospital, working at its new Wellness Connection, while she finished her bachelor’s degree. She then earned her master’s degree in exercise physiology from MSU.

In June 1993, she was hired as the first director of wellness at NMMC-West Point. In August of that year, under the new “Wellness for Life” program, hospital employees and several community members began taking advantage of treadmills, stationary bicycles and other exercise equipment when not being used by Outpatient Rehabilitation patients. With much input from area residents and hospital board members, Arnett and then-hospital administrator Mike Reid drafted plans for a 14,000-square-foot Wellness Center to be built on campus. The facility opened in February 1995 and soon garnered 500 charter members.

Over the years since, Arnett added services and equipment, taught classes, held special promotions like “Weigh Down in West Point” and “Pigs and Windmills Marathon,” hosted community functions and—most importantly—motivated members to improve their health and live their best life.

“On any given time at the Wellness Center, you can find people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels working out,” she said. “We are the perfect melting pot of West Point and Clay County. That has always been my favorite part of being here.”

Arnett is certified as a health and wellness instructor by the American College of Sports Medicine and as a personal trainer by the American College of Exercise. She is certified by Precision Nutrition, is a registered yoga instructor and a certified life coach through Well Coaches. She is certified by the American Heart Association to teach CPR and first aid, and is a Certified Natural Health Professional through Trinity School of Natural Health.

While she will no longer be working full time, Arnett has no intention of slowing down. “I will continue my personal coaching business, where I work with clients one on one to better themselves,” she said. She is also pursuing doctor of naturopathy certification and anticipates graduating in December 2020.

She founded a charitable organization, Good Earth Garden, in 2017 that collaborates with Starkville Habitat for Humanity and others to build 16-square-feet gardens so recipients can grow their own vegetables. “The only requirement is that they leave a little space for Milkweed, which is the only habitat for the Monarch butterfly. We are ‘pesticiding’ them from existence, and this is one small way we can help,” Arnett said. “We live in the Monarch corridor, the thin line where Monarchs migrate.”

Now Arnett will be able to focus even more of her energy on being a climate activist. “I want to teach people about the plight of our planet,” she said. “People think it’s a political topic, but it’s not. It’s real. For me, it’s a calling.”

She will continue teaching yoga two days a week through the Extended Day program at Southside Elementary School. She will also teach exercise Personal Enrichment Classes through the Center for Continuing Education at MSU.

 “I have a million hobbies,” she said. “I’m ready to devote some time to them. I want to become a better painter and a decent guitar player.” She also enjoys triathalons, adventure races, daily exercise, gardening, beekeeping and her new hobby—stand up paddleboarding.

She and her husband, Brian, live in Starkville with their five dogs and love to travel. “We want to visit every national park,” she said. “We will knock out five national parks in October when we visit the Grand Circle in Utah.”

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