Miss-Lou is thinking the right way, big

Published 12:09am Friday, June 28, 2013

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown and my 4-year-old son Gibson share at least one thing in common.

They both like to think big.

It is trait I value in my son  and, the more and more I think about, in the mayor as well.

For nearly a year, my son has been insisting he is no longer the baby he once was.

“I am big,” he says as he stands on his tiptoes. “I am as big as you, Daddy.”

If I still see myself as that young teenager who thought he knew everything about life even though I am 45 years old, I have no doubt that my son really does see himself as something bigger than his 50-inch frame suggests.

When he plays with older children, he doesn’t shy away from joining in the fun. What he lacks in size he more than makes up for with confidence, persistence and enthusiasm.

Lately he has been trying to convince me that he can do more grown-up things, like venturing into stores by himself or jumping into the driver’s seat instead of his own back seat booster.

“I can do it, I can do it,” has become his motto.

Of course, I know better, Even still, it is good to know that he has high aspirations,

I am thankful that Gibson relishes most challenges, taking them head on.

Similarly, mayor Butch Brown thinks big. He doesn’t let the relatively small size of our community keep him from working and playing with big boys.

Just this past week, Brown came back from a trip to the 81st annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Las Vegas. The conference is a non-partisan organization of mayors of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

Natchez has a few more than half that number, according to the 2010 census.

Also attending the conference were the mayors of Los Angeles, St. Louis, Kansas City, Miami and other major U.S. cities with populations more than 10 times the size of Natchez.

Obviously the mayor is unwilling to let the size of his town define the magnitude of his aspirations for his city.

During the conference, Brown spoke with New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu about assisting with the city’s upcoming tricentennial celebration.

Brown and Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland, who also does his fair share of big thinking, are planning a trip to the world’s largest port in Rotterdam. Brown and Copeland hope the trip will inform their efforts at building a regional port. Nevermind that the Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest, handling nearly 40,000 ocean-going container ships annually.

In recent weeks, a small group of residents has expressed skepticism that the  upcoming Rotterdam visit, and other trips are nothing more than paid vacations. While the Rotterdam trip will be funded by private donations, other trips are paid by the taxpayers.

“All of this big thinking is just wasted taxpayer money,” I hear them say.

There is that risk, of course. But if there are no higher aspirations, what are we left with?

In the last decade, Natchez has seen two types of leaders — those who think small and those who think big.

Thinking small is safe. It is about avoiding risk, looking for sure things and keeping the status quo. In the language of business, the return on investment is tiny, because you haven’t made any real investment.

Thinking big is risky. It requires creativity and requires innovation. The potential for big rewards is great, but so too are the dangers.

The question is can Natchez and Vidalia afford to think small or big?

In my mind, now is the time to aspire for a better and brighter future.

I feel that way about my son and the Miss-Lou.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.