West wants to take city in new direction

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 27, 2000

Phillip West wants to open opportunities for everyone in Natchez.

West, a state representative, is in the running for Natchez’s mayor’s office. West said last week he is considering withdrawing from the race because of his perception that not all of Natchez’s citizens will support a black mayor

West has not yet made a decision about whether he will withdraw.

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West and fellow independent candidate Robert F. Costa will face the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the June 6 general election. Democratic candidates are incumbent Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown, John &uot;Pulleybone&uot; Pullen and F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

West said he wants to &uot;change the direction of the city entirely.&uot;

He said Natchez’s most pressing need is economic opportunities, which he said can open opportunities in all other arenas, such as education.

&uot;The No. 1 thing I’m interested in is having leadership with a vision that prioritizes the citizens of Natchez and their concerns and needs, and if you have that, things will happen in a positive way,&uot; West said.

West has spent 21 years in public office. He served as an Adams County supervisor for 18 years and is in his third year as a legislator.

He said that political experience would be an asset in the mayor’s office.

&uot;That would be advantageous to me and to the citizens of Natchez,&uot; he said, noting that he knows the &uot;innerworkings&uot;&160;of county and state government and was a community activist before being elected to office.

West, like other candidates, said many voters have been talking about needing good-paying jobs.

&uot;They’ve been talking about that for 12 years,&uot; he said, adding that about 3,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the city since then.

West said the decline of the oil industry in the 1980s left Natchez’s middle class, in particular, with fewer opportunities.

&uot;That is a big void that has not been filled,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;Until it’s addressed we will continue to struggle.&uot;

West has also said Natchez needs first to change its attitude if it wants to attract industry.

&uot;That’s been a major part of our problem,&uot; he said, &uot;the community’s overall attitude and willingness to show the desire necessary to help attract the jobs we need. I don’t think we can attract those kinds of industries until we have a change in priorities. We have to have growth or we will be withering on the vine and then eventually die.&uot;

West said economic development — or the lack of it — affects many areas, from education to race relations.

&uot;When economic times are difficult, we have more strained race relations,&uot; he said. &uot;Everyone is fighting for a smaller pie.&uot;

West said he believes Natchez should pursue state and federal grants — but he does not want the city to depend on them. &uot;I don’t think the community would want to be dependent on outside tax dollars from the federal and state government,&uot; he said. &uot;We want to rely on our own tax base.&uot;

Although West ran as a Democrat for state legislator, he qualified as an independent for the mayor’s race.

West said he decided to run as an independent in part because he has been in Legislative session in Jackson, which has left him little time to campaign before the primary.

When he announced his candidacy, West said he had also been hoping that &uot;there would not be a need for me to run.&uot;

People had asked him to run for the last year and a half, he said, because &uot;they didn’t see anybody who would offer an alternative.&uot;