Archived Story

Are we standing in front of the wizard?

Published 12:03am Friday, July 20, 2012

Evidently all Natchez needed was the Wizard of Oz.

From the regular meetings of the Natchez mayor and board of aldermen to simple conversations at the coffee shop, a new attitude has taken hold of Natchez. In less than a month Natchez has transformed a city that couldn’t into a city that can.

Did it really take a simple change at the top to change the attitude of an entire town? Has the election of Larry L. “Butch” Brown brought new confidence to the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River?

If you watched the mayor, city clerk, municipal judge and the Natchez board of aldermen take the oath of office earlier this month, you might get the impression that Butch Brown is a humble man.

Those who know Brown know he is anything but humble. The former mayor and executive director for the Mississippi Department of Transportation has been known for enjoying the spotlight, yet on swearing-in day Brown could barely be seen standing behind the long line of elected officials and their family members.

Was this Brown’s way of taking a symbolic back seat to his fellow leaders or was he like the Wizard of Oz pulling levers and pumping smoke from the behind the scenes?

As much as I might like to think Butch has mellowed in the 12 years since he last pounded the mayor’s gavel — and maybe he has a bit — I tend to think Butch is working the city from behind the scenes like the Wizard behind the curtain.

All you had to do was attend the first regular meeting to get a sense of this Wizard of Natchez.

There was arrogance. When discussing the state of power lines and power poles in the city, Butch expressed frustration with Entergy and how wires and broken poles dot the city. But his biggest frustration was not having immediate contacts with company representatives in town.

“We need somebody to pick up the phone and call and we don’t seem to have that right now,” Butch said. “And if they are listening to me and watching this on T.V. right now, shame on you. I haven’t heard from you since I was elected mayor, and you should have come by and kissed my ring,” he said.

Of course, arrogance and power was just a façade for the leader of the Emerald City. Anyone who has read the book or seen the movie knows the Wizard was just an ordinary man, who showed the Scarecrow, Tin man and the Lion that all they needed was self-confidence to gain the qualities they thought they lacked.

In that way I guess Butch Brown is also like the Wizard.

Who else could convince the casually dressed IT department head to buy a dress coat and tie for his first board meeting? Who else could persuade city departments to change the way they address overgrown grass and vacant properties? Who else could convince the board and residents that city board meeting could be run effectively?

It appears that Brown’s demands for accountability and action in every level of city government from the department heads on down have not only changed the attitude of city government, but have for the moment given many residents the confidence in the city that they recently lacked.

Of course, for the real Wizard of Oz the biggest challenge of all was returning Dorothy and Toto to Kansas. Similarly, Brown’s biggest challenges lie ahead to bring its citizens back to the city they once loved and cherished.

Recreation, industry, tourism, tax revenues, crumbling infrastructure and making city government more efficient are just a few of the challenges that lie ahead.

For now the Wizard is working his magic on Natchez. Will the magic last?

 

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540.

  • Anonymous

    Good God, the election is over.  Ben and Kevin will you please stop kissing this new mayors arse???  I think you are wanting so badly to see things changing that any little thing you notice you’ll report on even if they are things that were happening prior to the election.  Wow, he’s making department heads wear sport coats to meetings as if this is some great and powerful demand.  Really, that gets you excited about Brown?  What’s your next article going to be about….the Butch Brown Fan Club that you and Kevin will be heading up?  I had to use this paper to clean up the coffee that came spewing after reading this.  Wow, I’ve never seen such cheerleading in my life from a newspaper and there doesn’t seem to be any end to it.

  • Anonymous

    I’VE BEEN WONDERING DO THAT ” EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR THE MDOT JOB PAY MORE THAN THE MAYOR OF NATCHEZ JOB? TRYING TO SEE IF HE TOOK A STEPT BACKWARD OR FORWARD. THAT ARROGANT GROWS AS A PERSON AGE. HE IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENCE PERSON NOW THEN YEARS AGO, AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT IN A GOOD WAY. AT HIS AGE WITH LITTLE TO SHOW FOR IT MAKES HIM #1 ON THE FBI MOST WANTED MAD MAN LIST. BROWN HAVEN’T GOT OVER LOOSING THAT MDOT JOB. HE FEEL MS DID HIM WRONG AND HE IS GOING TO GET PAY BACK WITH NAC. NAC HAVE LOST FOUR MORE YEARS OF IT’S LIFE. THAT WIZZARE WILL NOT BE RETURNING DOROTHY AND TOTO TO KANSAS.   

  • Anonymous

    Supervisors have to pave county AND city streets for publicity, Butch just has to show up!  BTW, the ’08 Grand Marquis wasn’t at Commerce Street Apt. early this AM when I passed by…actually no cars in that immediate area at all. 

  • Anonymous

    i wonder if ben and kevin  kissed his ring?

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    I truly feel sorry for these city folks with the top brass of the ND bowing to the Wizard is very interesting!!

  • Anonymous

    Classic!

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Butch lives in the county!!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting that no one wanted to admit it when he was running for election when everyone knows the truth.

  • Anonymous

    AHA!!!   an opening!!!  There was MORE information in the Code of Natchez than what I was aware. Yes, one of the requirements for running for mayor was that you be a RESIDENT of the city for 30 consecutive days prior to the election.
    The Code goes ON to say that the mayor MUST BE a “bona fide” RESIDENT of the City of Natchez!  WHAT??!!
    Yep, that is what the Code says! A BONA FIDE RESIDENT !!! Now, look up “bona fide” in the dictionary, and tell me what you think!!
    I reported this info to the ND, and the response wasNOT ” WOW! We’re gonna look into this”, but, instead,…” Would you be interested in writing a letter to the editor about this?”
    There IS a love affair here.

  • Anonymous

    If Butch can breathe a little life into this town—-go for it…… For ALL the naysayers—- two thumbs down to you for all your negativity……
    We have been heading no where for so long, with absolutely zero leadership, I am thrilled to say the least that I feel like our little town might stand somewhat of a fighting chance….. Something has got to give, Progress needs to be made—we can’t keep doing the same old song and dance while our population continues to plummet, and moral was at a all time low….. Mayor Brown: Hope u are able to accomplish all of your goals during this term,  while the negative folks continue to blab and do nothing to improve this community…..

  • Anonymous

    Good Grief!!! He’s been Mayor, for what, 3 whole weeks? And you’re wondering already if the magic will last? 

  • Anonymous

    Yep, it do.

  • Anonymous

    Two fingers up for the negative ones. I compare Butch to Edwin Edwards. A little for me while I help out my state or town. It just seems odd to have a leader for the first time in years. This ol’ wabbit was a Sgt. in the Marine Corps. My platoon knew I was the leader. I helped them before I helped myself. Sometimes when I was helping them they didn’t realize it and hated me for it. They thanked me later. Butch you go boy. You’re hardcorps like me!!!

  • Anonymous

    DD -

    DOTHATCOUNTASENGLISH??  ITHANKKNOT.

  • Sullivan Lawson

    Payback is Hell.

philosophical