Natchez awarded for beauty

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A first-place state beautification award for the City of Natchez came from public-private partnerships and the efforts of many, said Stephanie Hutchins, who chairs the Natchez Mayor&8217;s Beautification Committee.

&8220;When Mayor (Phillip) West took office, one of his first priorities was city cleanup and beautification,&8221; Hutchins said.

&8220;The subject had been a plank in his campaign platform, and he was ready to tackle the issue,&8221; she said.

Email newsletter signup

The Keep Mississippi Beautiful judges liked what the mayor&8217;s committee had done and said so with a first-place award in beautification by a local government.

West said a community&8217;s attitude is reflected in how it looks. &8220;Whether it&8217;s people coming here to visit and tour or people who want to establish a business or manufacturing company, they notice how a community looks,&8221; he said.

Hutchins agreed. &8220;Appearance is everything,&8221; she said. &8220;You can never get back that first impression you make on someone.&8221;

Furthermore, beautification is important to the people who live in a community. &8220;Proud citizens are happy citizens. It&8217;s important to enhance the community for our own people,&8221; she said, adding that a beautiful community deters crime.

The beautification committee&8217;s plan began with establishing two focal points: education and enforcement.

&8220;The education component would go to work first so that citizens could become fully aware of rules, regulations, transgressions and penalties,&8221; Hutchins said.

&8220;The enforcement component would be delayed three months to let information get to the masses to prevent the &8216;I didn&8217;t know&8217; syndrome.&8221;

The committee led anti-litter efforts, fundraising efforts for planting and maintenance and &8220;galvanized several other groups looking to the future of Natchez and assisted in mounting several large efforts to do major volunteer cleanups throughout the city,&8221; Hutchins said.

Incentives for residents to take part in beautification included awards that rotated through various wards of the city and were presented at public meetings.

West said the people on the committee showed how much they care for the community. &8220;They have really been dedicated, especially Stephanie Hutchins and Arella Bacon.&8221;

Hutchins said much credit goes to Bacon, who used her own money to buy flowers to plant and provided manpower through members of the Ruritan club she sponsors.

&8220;The committee was a compilation of people from a number of sectors. We had black and white, old and young. That makes my heart glad &8212; a lot of people pulling together for the good of the entire community,&8221; she said.

Hutchins said the timing of the award was important for Natchez.

&8220;What made this award especially important was that Mississippi had gotten a lot of attention from Keep America Beautiful, and the executive director of the national organization was in Mississippi for the awards luncheon,&8221; she said. &8220;He was a judge for the awards. It was good exposure for Natchez.&8221;

The quest for city beautification is not over, West said. &8220;It&8217;s always an ongoing battle. It&8217;s never over,&8221; he said. &8220;But I&8217;m proud we&8217;re moving in the right direction.&8221;

The awareness campaign should have long-term effects on the city, Hutchins said.

&8220;It has provided lots of awareness and education regarding the importance of a clean community and the need to teach our children to be good stewards of the environment,&8221; she said.

&8220;And it has served to make law enforcement officers understand that throwing litter out of a vehicle is just as much of a crime as running a stop sign,&8221; she said.