Candidates: Jobs, recreation among top issues

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Economic development, community unity and recreation were among the issues Natchez candidates discussed at a political forum Tuesday night. Voters had the chance to hear from city clerk and alderman candidates in person at the chamber of commerce-sponsored forum at the Isle of Capri Hotel.

Each candidate had time to give a three-minute introduction and to answer a question submitted by audience members before the forum.

Ward 1 candidate Gail Jenkins Healy said she wants to apply the same community harmony that helped establish the Guardian Shelter for Abused Families and the Sunshine Shelter for abused children to the city and to Ward 1. Healy, the former director of the Guardian Shelter, is now executive director at the Sunshine Shelter.

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&uot;We have a community of good-willed people who do take care of those less fortunate,&uot; she said. &uot;Let’s see if we can’t make some kind of progress in Ward 1 and set an example for the city.&uot;

Ward 1 incumbent Joyce Arceneaux said that as an educator she has &uot;touched Natchez’s future&uot; and wants to do what she can to ensure youth stay in their hometown.

&uot;My votes are going to be based on (my) core values,&uot; she said. &uot;I will always listen to the voters and citizens of Ward 1.&uot;

Both candidates answered a question about the need for recreation facilities in Ward 1.

Healy said she would like to establish more pocket parks as well as neighborhood associations that could get grants for recreation facilities.

Arceneaux said there are several possibilities for recreation facilities in Ward 1, including a resident who is willing to donate some land for a park.

In Ward 2, candidate James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray said he wants the ward — which he said is &uot;known as the worst in the city&uot; — to be the best-kept in the city.

Incumbent George &uot;Shake&uot; Harden said he stands on his record as an alderman. &uot;I would like to see continuation of drainage projects (in Ward 2),&uot; he said. &uot;I will continue to support the ideals of progressive government.&uot;

Ward 2 candidates also answered a question about the cleanliness of streets in the ward.

Harden said the streets are washed as often as streets in all of the other wards, according to the city public works department.

Gray said he thinks the streets are too bumpy for public works employees to want to clean the streets. &uot;We need to stop patching and resurface the streets in Ward 2,&uot; he said.

Ward 4 candidate Joe Eidt III said he would bring new ideas to the office.

&uot;I could stand up here and tell you the same thing everyone else is going to tell you,&uot; Eidt said. &uot;We need jobs, we need economic development. I am a new voice, I am a new face, I have new ideas.&uot;

Eidt also said he supports the proposed $18 million recreation complex, which he said would bring more jobs and economic impact.

Incumbent Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West said Natchez is now cleaner and has a better-equipped fire department.

&uot;I support the master plan,&uot; he said. &uot;But I also support neighborhood parks.&uot;

West said he supports the idea of an elected school board and is against annexation. He also said the six-member board of aldermen, despite their different backgrounds, have been able to come to consensus on most issues.

Both candidates answered a question regarding &uot;lack of results from the EDA (the city) continues to fund.&uot;

West said again the city needs to work on the perception prospective industries may have of the community.

&uot;There is a perception that this community is divided,&uot; he said. &uot;These are some things we have to deal with. We need to get serious to attract industry and jobs.&uot;

Eidt said one of the reasons for the lack of results is that there are not four-lane highways leading into the city, and the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority’s board is too large at 15 members. The city and county are working to reduce that number to five.

Ward 5 candidate Art Fesmire said he wants to serve as alderman in order to produce.

&uot;I want to help lead our city forward,&uot; he said, describing his campaign as a listening campaign. He said he first hears that the city needs good-paying jobs and recreational facilities.

Incumbent David Massey said he is proud to serve as mayor pro tem, a position elected by the other aldermen. He said the city now puts more than $1 million annually into recreation in the city, and that during his tenure Duncan Park added nine holes to its golf course.

&uot;We have the best-kept roads (in Ward 5),&uot; he said. &uot;There is not one road that has not been resurfaced in my ward.&uot;

In answer to a question about the importance of shopping locally, both candidates said they support it.

&uot;We want the most bang for the buck we can get in this city,&uot; Massey said. &uot;Without shopping at home we don’t have it.&uot;

Fesmire said shopping at home is important but he understands the need for city government — which must bid most projects — to find the best price even if it is sometimes out of the city.

City clerk candidates answered a question about why they would be the best qualified for the office.

Dr. Fredericka Cain Todd said she has the educational and experiential background to work as an administrator qualified to make decisions and direct others in the office.

Peter Rinaldi said his background has been &uot;following city government and finances&uot; as publisher of Miss-Lou Magazine and has experience with fiances in business.

Donnie Holloway said he has banking experience and has worked with bonds and public funds. &uot;I also have experience in personnel and I know how to work with people,&uot; he said.

JoeAnne Hicks, the only independent candidate in the city clerk’s race, said she has been a deputy city clerk for 12 years.

&uot;I can supervise and know what I am supervising,&uot; she said. &uot;I’ve sat at every desk in that office and I know what the duties of each job are.&uot;

Billy Geoghegan said he has experience working with the finances of several community organizations.

The primary is May 2 with a runoff May 16.

The general election is June 6.