Will city continue recent cycle of hiring one-term mayors?

Published 12:06am Sunday, April 29, 2012

NATCHEZ — In order to have three candidates with mayoral experience on the ballot, a city must have a lot of living former mayors.

And in order to have a lot of living former mayors, a city must be tough on incumbents.

That’s a title Natchez seems to willingly accept.

Since 1988, Natchez has had only one mayor be re-elected to office — Larry L. “Butch” Brown in 1996.

Counting the man who led the city for 20 years prior to 1988, Natchez now has six living mayors.

It’s no major surprise, politically speaking, said Marty Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.

Small-town government trends one of two ways, he said.

“It seems you either get elected many, many terms in a row or just one term,” Wiseman said. “You don’t see many two-term and out or three-term and out.”

Add in Natchez’s centuries old history and the divisions it is likely to create, and it’s understandable that voters will rarely back a mayor for long, Wiseman said.

It’s easy to look at election night returns in Natchez and predict whether or not the winner will be as successful in four years, former state Sen. Bob Dearing said.

“If it’s a close election, 200 votes or less difference, whoever is going to be mayor is going to have a tough time,” Dearing said.

He’s right, the numbers show.

In 2000, F.L. “Hank” Smith defeated incumbent Brown by only 224 votes.

In the 2004 primary, Phillip West defeated Smith by only 106 votes. In the general election that year, West edged out Republican Sue Stedman by only 100 votes.

In 2008, current mayor Jake Middleton defeated West by 223 votes.

In fact, the last time a significant vote count separated the two frontrunners in the race was in 1996 when Brown defeated West by 1,183 votes, winning re-election as an incumbent.

Former long-time alderman David Massey served with two one-term mayors and one two-term mayor.

“When you find someone to be the mayor in Natchez, it’s really hard to please more than 50 percent of the people,” he said. “It’s really like refereeing a football or basketball game.”

But it can be done.

Former Mayor Tony Byrne served in the hot seat for 20 years, from 1968 to 1988.

His secrets to success weren’t rocket science, Byrne said.

“My background was working for the chamber, and my philosophy was giving credit to the volunteers around you and knowing you are controlled by a board,” he said. “I felt like I could work with the boards, and if we had differences, we worked them out.

“I knew I’d need them next time if they didn’t vote for me that time. I don’t think (voters) enjoy seeing the board divided.”


  • Wiley Jons

    I’m sorry.  But – you simply cannot compare the years that Tony served as Mayor with the times as they exist today, nor over the past 15 years.  It’s a completely different City.  Even as the difference in night and day.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    As long as its down the racial lines, political party, and not by qualification it will be??!!!

  • Anonymous

    The Aldermen are ignorant of the fact that the Mayor is the tie breaking vote when they vote 3-3 as has existed for some years.  They need to cooperate with his/her programs to gain his vote when needed for their pet projects.  All too often, this is deemed racist rather than politics.

  • Anonymous

    What are you attempting to write?  Please, find a 3rd grader to proof for you.  And spare me the childish “I know you are, but what am I” retort.  Just learn some basic spelling and grammer. 

  • Anonymous

    not a spine in the batch of them,, butch was fired from same job twice,, bucket, well, picture says a thousand words,,

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Don’t worry about me for I’m educated so ,worry about your back yard??!! a message dated 4/29/2012 2:30:20 P.M. Central Daylight Time, notifications@disqus.net writes:


    MisterRational wrote, in response to khakirat:
    What are you attempting to write? Please, find a 3rd grader to proof for you. And spare me the childish “I know you are, but what am I” retort. Just learn some basic spelling and grammer.

    _Link to comment_ (http://disq.us/6x24qa?imp=efff8046-1a28-4b90-bb43-9a0429ea5e94&thread=668471434&zone=email_notification&event=shortener_click)

  • Anonymous

    If you are such a paragon of correct grammar and usage, you would know that one should never begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. Any educated person knows that. So get off his back. Some folks are not so fortunate to have received a good education, particularly if they are a product of the Natchez public school system within the past twenty years.

  • Anonymous

    It is perfectly acceptable to begin a sentence with “and”.  It is rather informal though and can become quite choppy if used too often.  It reflects poorly on Natchez and reinforces negative stereotypes about Southerners when they use poor grammer.  Quite frankly though, I think this is just a case of laziness.  If he would simply read the post before he hit the button, I’m sure the problems would be obvious. 

  • Anonymous

    If they couldn’t do it the first time around what makes them capable of it now? How about, “None of the above!”

  • Anonymous

    Jammin, it is similar to getting to know your bible, you must read it again and again until understanding is reached.  You must gain knowledge, make progress and learn from past experiences in order to succeed at anything.  Get my drift?  

  • Anonymous

    The mayor of Natchez has power like you say, but is it really deemed racist rather than political or just plain greed.   You know as well as anyone with the smallest of brains that the mayor’s pockets have been lined with under-the-table money when it comes to these tie breakers.  Remember, he is a good ole boy and human!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting article considering Jake Middleton had a election flyer stuffed in today’s paper.

  • Anonymous

    I do get your drift. Unfortunantly the people of Natchez are the ones suffering while these clowns learn. If you can call that learning.
     As with the Bible, everyone has their own interpetation of each passage and what knowledge they think they have gleaned from it! So it is with the laws too.

  • Anonymous

    I bet there are many student who are products of Natchez Public School System that can out think, out smart, and run a ring around many of the so called non public educated students. The unfortunate thing is they are never mentioned or introduced to the community because the bad has overshadowed the good. We need to publish the good things that are happening in our public schools. I charge administrators and educators to do their jobs and focus on some of these outstanding individuals.
     When I last checked, the word was grammar not grammer.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that is how I spelled it.

    Look, I wasn’t touting private education over public education. Believe me, I wish our society would assign as much importance to returning American public schools to the first rank internationally as it does to pouring a trillion dollars down the rathole of Afghanistan. There is no denying, however, that over the past two decades the Natchez-Adams County school system has been one of the worst in the state and, perhaps, the nation. Despite the deplorable condition of this school system, there are indeed some remarkable young people who defy the odds and push themselves (with the help of some remarkable teachers) to excel. I would say that these kids succeed in spite of the NACS system, not because of it.

  • Anonymous

    People, stop already with these senseless attempts to correct another blogger’s grammar. 
    By and large, twitting and poking on this thing has always been full of grammatical errors by both the educated and
    the undereducated alike.  
    Besides, anyone who follows a reader’s comments knows percisely what the other person is trying to convey.
    So whether you agree with the statement or not….respond with your view(s) but don’t attack someone educational level
    because your actions only demonstrates what you understand about “education.”
    In my opinon, when you downplay someone’s elses opinion….is it really a ploy to silent the other person opinion. 
    Not cool!!!!

    Now that’s poor communication skills    

  • Anonymous

    Elect former Senator Bob Dearing for mayor. Write in and do the right thing.

    Bob Dearing for Mayor!!!!!