Fields measured by long list of expectations

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

EDITOR’S NOTE: Endorsements made today are for Tuesday’s party primaries. Further endorsements will be made before the general election.

Endorsement interviews are a lot like job interviews. And this year’s round, in preparation for the primary phase of this year’s city election, is no exception.

As an editorial board, we approached our endorsement process in the same way we might have approached a series of job interviews. We investigated each candidate’s position on issues and carefully considered their ability to lead the board of aldermen and to form a team among the department heads.

Email newsletter signup

With five Democrats, one Republican and one independent in the race, we are not lacking in quantity of candidates. But the quality of the candidates does not quite meet our expectations. Taking the liberty of extending the job interview analogy, were we a manager attempting to fill a key position, we might be faced with closing the interview process and reposting the job.

But this is real. And the primaries are Tuesday. In fairness to the candidates, each has stepped up and thrown his or her hat into the ring. And that is commendable. None among us is perfect. So we, like you the voter, have a decision to make. We made ours by comparing each candidate to a basic outline of responsibilities, needs and issues.

Ideally, the best candidate for office would possess a solid knowledge of the issues that will help move Natchez into the future, perhaps most important showing support for the Economic Development Authority and the work it is doing. The EDA is now strong and focused, and needs all of our backing. We don’t have time for more divisiveness between development and quasi-development factions, and we certainly can’t accept it from our next mayor.

The best candidate would have an open mind about consolidation of city and county government and the understanding we must research the issue before making any plan. Is consolidation the proper step? We don’t know. And the only way to find out is with the leadership of a strong mayor.

The best candidate would walk down a broken sidewalk littered with trash and say, &uot;We can do better&uot; &045;&045; and come up with a plan to do just that. Our infrastructure is weak and crumbling. And the problem is more attributable to leadership and management than money. When we get a mayor who understands that, we can move ahead.

The best candidate would make taxpayers’ money work for them and would tirelessly seek outside funding for projects while shoring up the city’s finances by selling excess public property.

The best candidate would be a person of strong moral character who could inspire aldermen, department heads and residents to success on all of those issues. We need an action-oriented mayor and a team builder.

And the best candidate would have a &uot;fire in their belly&uot; to make Natchez better &045;&045; tempered by good judgment and an ability to work with others and form a strong team.

In our endorsement process, we considered each candidate in the context of those qualifications. Unfortunately, no one candidate &045;&045; either in the Democratic primary or the rest of the field &045;&045; was a match for all of our expectations. Each has strengths and weaknesses.

Our endorsement in the Democratic primary goes to Phillip West, the current state representative for District 94. West, a former Adams County supervisor, is a solid leader for our community. He has good contacts at both the state and federal level and supports the efforts of the EDA to attract business to Natchez. He knows that the mayor’s day-to-day role in economic development is limited but sees the big picture in that the mayor must always be in a position to, in his words, &uot;sell&uot; the community to others.

He wants to be fiscally conservative with taxpayers’ money and hopes to look for outside funding sources, hiring at least one grant-writer to seek funding for beautification and erosion projects, among other things.

West also believes he can &uot;bridge the gap&uot; in our community, and he has proven his ability to bring various people together on such projects as establishing a Boys & Girls Club for Natchez, long a dream of many people in our community.

West has a strong legacy of leadership in Adams County, based on his involvement not only as an elected official but also as a member of many community boards. He is a solid choice in the Democratic primary for mayor.

Municipal judge

The municipal judge’s race was almost as tough to determine our endorsement &045;&045; but for the opposite reasons. With longtime Judge John M. Tipton retiring, five people, all Democrats, met the qualifications, which include holding a law degree.

But all five candidates possess more than just the minimums.

They all operate from a strong moral code; they are fair and honest; and they have varied experiences in the courtroom.

Any one of these candidates would make our city proud and would be a good municipal judge to carry on Tipton’s solid legacy.

They also have good ideas about how municipal court should be run, from the mundane task of scheduling cases to the tough decisions about sentencing for such crimes as domestic violence and drug abuse.

In our endorsement, we give the edge to Jim Blough, a longtime attorney who has spent 27 years as the municipal judge pro tem, filling in for Tipton when he was on vacation or out of the office. He understands how the court runs but could also bring new insight to the process.

Whichever candidate wins, he or she would be advised to gather this group together and share ideas about how the court can best serve the city and act as a deterrent to crime.


This year’s Natchez aldermen races attracted a number of candidates with a wide range of work and community leadership experience.

Two of the incumbents &045;&045; Ward 2’s Ricky Gray and Ward 6’s Jake Middleton &045;&045; are running unopposed. We would have liked to see competition in those races because of the debate it brings on issues.

Ward 1

Incumbent Joyce Arceneaux faces a wide field of candidates in her race this year, with four Democrats including herself running.

Our endorsement goes to Arceneaux, who has been a smart, valuable member of the board for two terms now. A dedicated teacher, she listens well to her constituents and makes reasoned choices about what is best for her ward and what is best for the city. She has not been afraid to be the lone vote on issues for which she is passionate, but she also has voted for issues that benefit the entire city.

We make the note, however, that Jim Sanders is also a strong candidate, perhaps even the next best in the entire field of aldermen candidates.

Ward 3

With incumbent Sue Stedman running for mayor as a Republican, four people are vying for the open position of alderman for Ward 3. Our endorsement will focus this week only on the Republican primary, and we will make another endorsement for the general election to include all candidates. D.D. Smith is the lone Democrat and Bob Haltom the only independent in the race.

For this office, we endorse Cynthia Parker Brumfield, who we believe would bring the right mix of positive attitude and strong work ethic to the board. A passionate volunteer and experienced grant writer, she already has brought money to the community, most recently for a tree grant to help beautify the entrances to the city. She understands what it would take to move Natchez forward and is willing to work hard to get there.

Ward 4

Incumbent Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West faces political newcomer Donnell Newsome, a former educator, in the Democratic primary. They are the only two candidates in the race.

Our endorsement goes to West, a longtime leader for Natchez. While Newsome has worked hard for the community in a number of ways, West has the experience and knowledge of city government to help lead the community and to help remind us of the need for inclusion of all people. While racial diversity is important to West, he does not necessarily vote along racial lines but makes sure his decisions are best for Natchez. He also makes a point of our need to strengthen and retain small businesses, which is as essential for our community’s economy as attracting larger industries.

Ward 5

Incumbent David Massey faces former aldermen Jim Gilbert in the Democratic primary. They are the only two candidates in the race.

Our endorsement goes to Massey, who we believe is the best candidate in this race.

We have not always agreed with Massey’s stand on issues, most recently with his push for a revision of the long-standing sign ordinance. Our disagreements often come when we believe Massey has acted rashly on issues without thinking about the consequences and what is best for the city. We hope he continues to grow in the job, to learn from his mistakes.

That said, Massey is fiscally conservative and wants to look for ways for Natchez to tighten its belt while focusing on economic development and job creation. He understands that the board of aldermen needs a strong leader, and he has the best interests of his community at heart.