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What if we had the best of each candidate?

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.