Mayor saving his last key to the city for special occasion

Published 12:12am Sunday, September 8, 2013

NATCHEZ — With only one key to the city remaining from his first mayoral administration in the 1990s, Natchez Mayor Butch Brown has his eye on finding a special recipient.

“I have one key left, and I think I’m going to save it for someone very, very special,” he said.

Brown has had new keys made since taking office last year, but said the original key holds sentimental value.

Brown said he does not know who will get the key, but admits he has someone in mind.

“I think we can get President Obama down here for the tricentennial, and I would love to give it to him,” he said.

The city has big plans for its multi-million dollar, yearlong tricentennial celebration in 2016.

Events will include the Beer, Bourbon and Biscuits Festival and a Civil War-themed mud run and an international basketball tournament with participants from the U.S., Spain, France and England.

But before President Obama’s opportunity to get a key to Natchez, Brown anticipates honoring others with newer keys to the city, too.

The tradition of presenting a key to city can be traced back to medieval times when entrance to a city required permission to enter through locked gates.

Now the tradition is an honorary gesture presented to distinguished persons and honorary guests of cities.

“People who do extraordinary things for the City of Natchez need to be recognized,” he said. “That honor doesn’t mean someone has to be elected, and they don’t have to even be from the city, just having done something extraordinary for the city.”

The city has given keys to governors, senators, congressmen, foreign ambassadors and federal officials. But it has also given keys to ordinary residents who have given exceptional service to the city, Brown said.

The city most recently presented keys to the city to Dan Bland, who volunteers his time to help manage Duncan Park Golf Course, and Erle Drane, who recently retired as the director of Adams County’s Veterans Services Office.

“We can honor people in a lot of different ways … business of the month, honorary citizen certificates … but there’s only one key to the city,” he said.