Mayor to head up Municipal League committee

Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 17, 2008

NATCHEZ — Without the growth of cities, the growth of states would not be possible.

Protecting and enhancing the cities of Mississippi is the primary objective in the 2008 Legislative Meetings of the Mississippi Municipal League (MML).

At the head of the 2008 Legislative Committee is Natchez Mayor Phillip West.

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West was asked to serve by the Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, who is the chairman of MML.

“Mayor West and I go back when he was on the board of supervisors in the county,” DuPree said. “Then Mayor West became a state representative and I was just impressed with his ability to work with people to get things done.”

West said he thought that those qualifications were what led DuPree to choose him.

“I suppose I was asked because I’m a former legislator with a decent relationship with the membership and am familiar with the procedure,” West said.

DuPree said with all those skills combined, it makes for a good leader.

“I think all those things work real well with the municipal league and get things accomplished,” DuPree said. “To me that was the easy choice.”

West said there were several reasons he accepted the position, but mostly because of the differences he wants to make.

“I accepted because I felt I would be able to make contributions to the state, but also advantages to the City of Natchez,” West said.

MML, West said, is an organization that represents every municipality of Mississippi.

The major job is to ensure that legislation does not pass any bill that would adversely affect a city in Mississippi, he said.

One example of this would be the bill that would result in the elimination of the sales tax in Mississippi, West said.

“We’re not against (the bill),” West said. “But additional revenues will be needed in order to compensate for the loss the cities would experience.”

He continued by explaining that other funds would be designated in the case of eliminated sales tax.

Also, MML is responsible for making sure bad legislation doesn’t move forward while on the other end of the spectrum, ensuring that good legislation moves forward.

“Even with good legislation, we make sure its protected and given its best chance to be voted on and voted for,” West said.

Raising awareness is another key element of the job, West said.

The MML Legislative Committee members work to make legislators aware that city municipality growth leads to state growth, West said.

From this thought came the theme of the 2008 Legislative Committee, “Home is Important…Support Mississippi Cities and Towns.”

“We’re talking about quality of life,” West said. “For the most part that resides within the cities themselves.”

What does this mean for Natchez?

West said that having him lead the committee will be positive publicity for the city.

“It will put Natchez in even more positive light,” West said. “It continues to upgrade our image, having someone from Natchez serve in this capacity.”

West also hopes there will be physical improvements to the city as well.

He began by giving an example of what MML has been able to do for Natchez in the past.

Two years ago, Rentech, Inc., after showing its interest in locating to the Natchez, Adams County area, requested an upgrade of the land on which they were planning to build. A total of $15 million was needed to improve said land.

West said MML made a request to the legislature for this money. The request was successful, and although West is uncertain if Rentech would have continued with their plans to build in Adams County without the money, being able to receive the money for the land improvements was positive.

Another improvement that has come through MML lies in several requests over the years MML has made for bond monies for the Forks of the Road historic site.

Natchez has received $10 million to help, but not entirely, fund Forks of the Road.

West said he believed that turning Forks of the Road into an educational memorial would add vast improvements to Natchez and also historical enrichment.

“People are beginning to recognize now that Natchez was the beginning for the state of Mississippi,” West said. “It’s just very important.”

With this realization, West hopes to bring people from all over to Natchez to enjoy an educational asset.

“(It would be) designed to create something educational, attractive and tremendous that (would bring) economic impact,” West said.

West’s involvement with MML began automatically once he was elected as mayor. He said believes he is also well experienced to be the head of the legislative committee.

“I have an advantage in that I’ve been in state government, county government and city government,” West said.