What if we had the best of each candidate?

Published 12:28am Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Phillip West preaches the word of Natchez.

Put him behind a lectern with a live microphone and he’ll steal the show every time. He clearly loves Natchez, and those who fill the pews with open minds and open hearts will soon do the same.

So it was no surprise at the first mayoral candidate forum of the election season when West started preaching. He drove home points, told meaningful stories and made everyone laugh.

But toward the end of his sermon, West let loose a quip about himself and his opponents that deserves study beyond what he intended.

“All of us have assets and shortcomings, and if we could take the best of all us and combine it into one … well it would be Phillip West,” the former mayor said to the crowd.

His comic timing — and political sales pitch — was perfect, but I’m not quite ready to say it’s entirely right.

Instead, I think Natchez would be best served by the first half of West’s statement — a mayor formed from the best traits of each of the candidates present that night.

The three past mayors — oldies but goodies, if you will — and one political newcomer each brings distinctly different and desperately needed traits to the table.

Let’s just take them one-by-one.

Current Mayor Jake Middleton is by far the best public face for our city.

He knows how to carry himself in important situations, whether that’s socially at a chamber of commerce after hours with area business leaders or professionally when top executives from a potential industrial prospect are in town.

I imagine he’s smooth when shaking hands and asking for money among legislators in Washington, D.C., and I know he’s friendly, welcoming and quick to set everyone at ease back here at home.

Superficially speaking — which most everyone admits is important when it comes to first impressions — Middleton looks good in a suit and has a smile that opens doors.

Like Middleton, West handles himself with ease.

But West’s expertise is in selling his hometown with passion. He knows how to communicate his message to the masses, and even when he knows the masses won’t like his message he finds a way to get them on board.

West will make you love Natchez, and that is a priceless trait for the future of our community.

Butch Brown gets things done.

He makes plans and carries them out, ignoring potholes and roadblocks along the way.

He uses one-on-one conversations to rally needed support for his ideas, and he simply makes them happen, no questions asked.

His resume of accomplishments appropriately boasts of his strong leadership skills and ability to carry out a master plan.

Bill Furlow — still largely an unknown to many residents — is an expert negotiator. Brown would find a means to an end, but Furlow would ensure that all parties walked away feeling heard and appreciated. Everyone would, therefore, be ready to work with Furlow again next time.

He would remain calm in the face of chaos and act with his brain, not his heart.

West was correct; Natchez needs the best of each man who attended the forum. All four candidates — a fifth candidate, Bob Buie, didn’t attend the forum — need each other.

Butch can plan it, Phillip can sell it, Jake can announce it and Bill can smooth over all the tracks the other three strong personalities left in their wakes.

The ballot won’t allow you to vote for all four candidates, but Natchez and the men involved would be wise to realize we need them all.

Don’t let Election Day be the last day we hear from all four local leaders. We need them all on board — in whatever capacity is logistically reasonable — if we hope to be better tomorrow than we are today.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.


  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure that a community with a mountain of debt, poor schools, well dressed with a smile, and a good debater trying to tell us all is well is the right idea.  We need a mayor who is not afraid to step on a few toes, utilize a conservative approach until the economy improves, and is willing to make some tough decision changes to reduce the city workforce (including relatives) to lead Natchez into the future.  It a’int working, so fix it!

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    A mayor needs to be the leader of the city and show leadership over the BOA meeting during these bad economic times needs to be a General George S. Patton style for its been to much otherwise !!! I still have that gutt feeling that West will go in no matter for the blacks population is more than the whites so its going to be a lot of wasted time and money I hope the city folks prove me wrong but this is West strategy!!! Also I’m sure there will be vote buying as usual in Adams county so hold on for the ride!!!! When you see the blacks at the entrance of Walmart registering people to vote is a big sign!! Why aren’t the whites doing the same for I meet people that say they don’t vote or registered for it want change anything but I guess the blacks have the numbers??!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Natchez may need all three past mayors and that should be the way it ends PAST mayors. Neither of the three have done the good job as a good mayor should do. WEST the man who forced our school situation into the toilet, BROWN, the man who ran Natchez so far into debt, we’ll never get it paid. Middleton, the do nothing mayor. Nah, I don’t think they’ll ever have enough money to buy my vote.

  • Anonymous

    Whites aren’t pushing voter registration for the same reason you see very few whites manning the polls on election days – voter apathy leading to abdication without their voice being heard, then objecting to the outcome!

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Well, if you sit on your butt this is to be expected for the whites don’t have that fire in their belly and pointing a finger at myself as well for I never miss a election!!!! So, I feel I can complain!!! But watching Butch Brown have two ads one on each page I would like to know what his expense is for its got to be the most spent then to have West win Brown will have a good write off I guess??!!! Its ashame that whatever racial group in a district that has the most people is who you wins the election but that’s the South in 2012!!! What a mess!!!!!

    In a message dated 4/12/2012 8:25:11 P.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:


    oldsouthgent wrote, in response to khakirat:
    Whites aren’t pushing voter registration for the same reason you see very few whites manning the polls on election days – voter apathy leading to abdication without their voice being heard, then objecting to the outcome!
    _Link to comment_ (http://disq.us/6k076v?imp=0fd0f422-db57-411e-ae8a-d6e4e3c2fa94&thread=644529005&zone=email_notification&event=shortener_click)