Campaigning continues for general election

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2000

Natchez’s campaign season isn’t quite over yet, with one more election to go June 6. Democratic nominee F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith, who won Tuesday’s mayoral runoff over incumbent Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown, said he isn’t taking anything for granted as he heads into the next election.

&uot;I’ve got another race to win,&uot; he said. &uot;You can’t get the cart before the horse.&uot;

Smith faces independent Robert F. Costa in the general election for mayor.

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Democratic city clerk nominee Donnie Holloway, who beat Fredericka Todd Tuesday, now faces independent JoeAnne Hicks for the post.

Smith said he has not spoken with any of the members of the board of aldermen yet about the possibility of his being elected mayor.

&uot;That would be presumptuous of me,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m not the mayor yet. I’m not underestimating my opponent or taking anything for granted.&uot;

Costa, who been campaigning, although with a lower profile, the last few weeks, said he believes he has greater experience than his opponent.

Smith and Costa have different opinions on one of the city’s largest projects under way. The city last year borrowed $12 million in bonds for a new downtown convention center complex. One leg of the project, a community center, is already completed, and construction could begin late this summer or this fall on the convention center.

Costa supports the convention center but believes it needs parking.

Smith said he would like to explore the possibility of suspending construction on the convention center to see if the building could be part of the Natchez Visitor Reception Center. Smith said he would understand if that can’t be done.

&uot;The suggestions I’ve made are in an effort to save taxpayers some money,&uot; Smith said.

Costa, meanwhile, said the planned convention center isn’t as large as he would like.

&uot;My only comment is that (the convention center) was not built for the future,&uot; Costa said. The planned facility is 58,000 square feet, with lot space which could allow the building to grow.

Costa, a downtown antiques dealer and bed and breakfast owner, has long been an advocate of more parking downtown.

&uot;The only good convention center we could have would be for skydivers,&uot; he said. &uot;They could land on the building.&uot;

Smith said that, despite rumors, he has not considered whether he would try to fire any current city department heads.

&uot;I haven’t thought about any of those type things,&uot; he said.

Costa said he also hasn’t thought about whether he would make any changes in city staff because he has not evaluated the current situation.

&uot;I don’t have any enemies I’d have to get rid of,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t have the wrong attitude. I’ve fired people before, but you have to have just cause. You just don’t dismiss someone because someone says so.&uot;

Both Smith and Costa say they support efforts to improve recreation facilities, but they are cautious about the estimated $16 million cost of the proposed sports complex next to Natchez High School.

Costa admitted he couldn’t make many comments on the proposed St. Catherine Village Sports Complex because he has not seen the plans.

Smith said he would support the sports complex if the city can find money to pay for it.

&uot;If it’s doable, absolutely,&uot; he said. &uot;My platform has been to look at things in a little different light, to look at anything from a cost-saving standpoint. It’s definitely needed. But $16 million – I always thought that was a little extravagant.&uot;

Both Costa and Smith said they would continue the city’s push for grants for such projects – but they both cautioned about operating costs after facilities are built.