Results show voters want new leadership

Published 11:57pm Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tuesday’s county election results appear to indicate a referendum of sorts on recreation.

Although none of the results are official and absentee votes have yet to be counted, looking at the results of the county supervisor’s elections show voters want change in leadership.

But unofficial vote totals don’t seem to show an across-the-board movement to oust all incumbents. It appears that voters’ driving decision may have been focused on the support — or apparent lack of support — for a proposed recreation complex.

Interestingly District 4 Supervisor Darryl Grennell had no opponents, so apparently the citizens living in District 4 are satisfied with Grennell’s leadership. Grennell has publicly said he supports the project.

But even among the incumbents on the ballot who had opposition, the recreation factor seemed to be a critical one for voters.

In District 1, voters overwhelming supported incumbent Mike Lazarus. He earned, unofficially, more than 70 percent of the vote, enough to make him win the race outright with no runoff required.

Interestingly, Lazarus has long been a proponent of investing in recreation and is easily the board’s No. 1 recreation supporter.

District 3 was a toss-up for many voters with three new faces on the ballot since long-time incumbent Thomas “Boo” Campbell chose not to seek re-election.

Angela Gibson Hutchins — a long-time board secretary and inventory clerk — pulled in approximately 59 percent of the vote. She received the public backing and support of Campbell.

But perhaps the most telling examples of the unofficial recreation referendum of 2011 were in Districts 2 and 5.

Although ousted District 5 supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter has said he supports a new recreation project, he’s also said he doesn’t believe the recreation complex should be built if doing so requires tax increases.

Despite a non-binding referendum on recreation on the November 2009 ballot which received overwhelming support, Felter suggested that the idea of recreation — and specifically if people supported it with tax increases — should be put on the ballot again.

More recently he suggested splitting up the recreation complex into smaller, more manageable projects rather than one big project requiring a large amount of funds all at once. While there may be some merit to this approach, such talk gave many voters the impression that Felter was not fully on the recreation team.

Now he’s been voted off the team. Combined his two opponents — including winner Calvin Butler — pulled in 65 percent of the vote. Butler faces Republican challenger Grady Wilson in November.

The unofficial vote data from District 2 told an even more interesting tale. Like Felter, District 2 incumbent Henry Watts has said he supports recreation, but questions funding.

Watts won the Democratic primary handily; he had no party opponent — but faces independent David Carter in November.

What’s interesting is the number of write-in ballots cast against Watts. Thirty-five voters clicked on the “write-in” box rather than vote for Watts, even though they knew that vote wouldn’t really matter.

The November election is still nearly three months away, but it certainly seems that one’s support for recreation may be the key to winning in November.

In the end, voters may be telling us all that they made a decision about recreation in 2009 and are simply disappointed that two years later, some elected leaders are still mulling ideas and kicking at the dirt.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

  • Anonymous

    Put the question on the ballot with SPECIFICS:  “Are you for raising your property taxes X mills (or $XXX per $100,000 of assessed value) and building a recreation complex that has yet to show firm building costs and future O&M costs?”.

    A couple of days ago the paper printed an article about lack of funds and the cost to cut grass.  Everyone’s for recreation if it costs nothing.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    County property taxpayers want new leaders with integrity that will be a watchdog for every dollar spent!!! As far as rec. complex and etc. aren’t anything to talk about with a county and city out of money! These new leaders need to tighten the belt further and reduce the budgets!! 

  • Anonymous

    I thought reading the heading this article was about leadership but found out it is a promotion for the recreation complex. If the next article really talked about leadership and its attributes as compared to the “waffles” we’ve had making important decisions in the recent past, that would be an important step in pointing the new leaders in the right direction.  It seems every important issue facing the county recently has either been tabled or continually put off to avoid making a decision for some time, including recreation.  Sounds like Obama’s re-election strategy doesn’t it?  Now that re-election is mostly over, the time is here for decision making and they have four years to live down the bad ones before next election.

    I hope the new board after the November election will exercise leadership in resolving the many issues left on the table by the predecessor board. The recreation complex probably should go before the voters again to approve a tax increase rather than simply checking the “like” button.  Unfortunately for the new supervisors, they apparently can approve the tax increase and brand themselves before the next election, or delay a decision until 2016 after the next election so they won’t have this cross to bear while campaigning.

  • Anonymous

    Why no one wants to see the costs (projected build and future maintenance) is odd.  And I’ve yet to see any questions about why they need a new pool when the old one didn’t work out (twice).  Yes, let’s equate ‘leadership’ to blindly spending more money no one has.  When you can’t afford to cut grass, you can’t afford a ‘complex’.

  • Ham Bone

    More recreation propaganda.  KC and the Sunshine Pumpers have just insulted my intelligence.  I and many other voters have much more on our minds than the recreation project. 

  • Anonymous

    According to this opinion article and a recent one by Ben Hillyer, some people may think the results of the recent primary elections were about recreation.  Rather, they seem to think that people were voted in or out based upon their stance towards recreation.  I have never felt that Spanky Felter was opposed to recreation. He has stated often that he was opposed to raising property taxes to fund recreation and that every option for recreation funding should be explored.  I think, but am not sure, that Spanky is the only supervisor that has even suggested alternative funding methods.  He has suggested sales taxes and  corporate sponsorship as options that could be looked at.  Calvin Butler, during his campaign, has also stated that he would not vote to raise property taxes to fund recreation but would look at every available option to fund the project.  I don’t take that to mean he is against recreation.  Moe LeBlanc said that he would raise property taxes as a last resort to fund recreation.  All of these candidates were for recreation but only one of them said he would raise property taxes to fund it.  That candidate got the least amount of votes.  I think it was only around 8%.  Mr. Cooper and Mr. Hillyer are of the opinion that Spanky lost and Mr. Butler won because of their support of lack of support for recreation.  As a voter I put a lot more thought into who I vote for than a canditates stance on one issue.  Of these three canditates, I would have voted for Moe Leblanc if all I was concerned about was recreation, because the easist way to fund it would be to just raise property taxes.  Thankfully we have someone on the ballot in November that has promised to look at all options to make recreation a reality for our community.  He has said that he would work with the recreation commission, who have put a lot of time, effort and their own money into researching this project, and come up with a plan that will be best for the whole community.  But Mr. Butler has also said that he will put the same effort into all of the projects and issues that he may face as a supervisor.  Perhaps that is why he recieved the majority of the votes in the primary elections.   

  • Anonymous

    The Simpson’s “Monorail” episode comes to mind here.

  • Anonymous

    We do need new leadership in Natchez, but most of the challengers in these races offer little in the way of experience or credentials to make any improvements. With the economy in the bad shape it is now and revenues down, the recreation complex should be put off for better times. We can’t afford it.