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Steamboat, city have much in common

Saturday morning as the sun began to pop up over the Mississippi River, the connections between the American Queen steamboat and the Natchez Mayor’s race came to light for me.

Julie and I were invited to be guinea pigs — luxuriously treated guinea pigs mind you — aboard the first “shakedown cruise” of what will, I think, soon be the only steamboat offering overnight cruises along the Mississippi.

Such cruises are set to help the boat’s crew familiarize themselves with their systems and the boat’s operations before paying passengers step aboard.

Our invitation was the work of Regina Charboneau — Natchez native, chef extraordinaire and executive chef of the American Queen. Charboneau and her husband, Doug, own Twin Oaks B&B on Homochitto Street.

After boarding the vessel the announcement came over the intercom system welcoming everyone aboard and stating, “We are still a work in progress.”

That was a nice way of saying, “Don’t expect this trip to be perfect.”

And the announcement was correct.

The riverboat is beautiful, but still had a few rough edges here and there; likely all will be finished in plenty of time for the first paying customers in a few weeks.

It wasn’t perfect, and the boat never left the dock due to a mechanical issue, but there were two exceptions.

First, every member of the boat’s staff was amazingly polite, courteous and helpful.

Second, despite a few unfinished spots in a few corners, Charboneau’s handiwork was truly great.

It was clear she had carefully planned the menus, and the kitchen staff executed them well. Friday night’s dinner was a home run.

All of the folks at the tables near us shared our enthusiasm over the food. A “Natchez Beignet” topped off the great dinner. Our city’s dessert namesake was simple — a beignet stuffed with ice cream. How can you beat that?

Planning and execution simply works — whether it’s creating amazingly good food or improving and leading a city such as Natchez.

Just like the American Queen, the City of Natchez is also a work in progress.

It, too, needs a little tidying up and a little housekeeping to be in its finest, tip-top shape.

And at the moment, five men want to be captain of the city’s ship.

For many voters, it’s still far too early to know for sure who the absolute best candidate is, but it’s clear that voters have a deep involvement in this year’s mayoral election.

Unfortunately, there’s not a good way to take a “shakedown cruise” with each potential “captain” at the helm.

What we have, however, is the ability to ask questions, poke at the candidates’ records and get the candidates to outline their goals on the record.

Our staff is working on providing as much of that information as possible ahead of the elections. As readers have questions, please send them to us by e-mail or call us and let us hear what’s on your mind.

Stay tuned as the lines are cast off and the race fully gets under way.

I hope each of you has a blessed Easter.

 

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

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