Do they have mayoral muscle?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 20, 2008

NATCHEZ — The next mayor of Natchez won’t rule with an iron fist.

He won’t pass down edicts. He won’t just repave all the streets. And he won’t make Natchez a better place to live — all by himself, that is.

The law doesn’t allow it.

Email newsletter signup

Natchez is governed by a weak mayor form of government.

The aldermen make all the decisions, and the mayor only gets a vote when the board of aldermen ties on a matter.

And while the mayor might not often exercise his or her voting ability, many still see the power in the title of “mayor.”

Adams County Board of Supervisor Darryl Grennell said the Mayor of Natchez has an important job in leading both the city and the board.

“It’s all about leadership,” he said.

Chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Development Board Woody Allen echoed Grennell’s thoughts, saying the mayor’s job can best be described as that a manager of the city.

“His job is to bring ideas and vision to the table,” he said. “It’s not to tell the board what to do.”

Allen said looking at the mayor’s position from a managerial standpoint, not a dictatorial standpoint is a helpful perspective to consider.

Former mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown, who served from 1992-2000, said the best way to rally the troops is to keep the board informed.

Former mayor Tony Byrne, who was in office from 1968-1988, agreed that communication is key.

“You need to have an open line in communications with everyone you’re working with,” Byrne said.

Al Graning, former alderman from 1968 to 1992, said every group of people needs a strong leader.

“That’s the position the mayor is in, he doesn’t pull the trigger so to speak but he influences the ones who do,” Graning said.

One of the main issues that needs to be targeted during the next four years is infrastructure.

Brown said infrastructure must be addressed.

“If we’re going to continue to be a non-smokestack community, we’re going to have to make sure the community is like the front door of your home — inviting, clean, pleasing to the eye,” Brown said. “We need to emphasize that now and in the future.”

Byrne said the streets need to be fixed.

“The streets need attention,” Byrne said.

Sue Stedman, former alderman from 1996 to 2004, agreed the streets have to be a main focus.

Former alderman Vidal Davis, from 1983 to 1996, said an important issue that needs to be addressed is consolidation of city and county government.

“I think it’s a ridiculous waste of money that we can’t combine services,” he said. “It’s a hard thing to make happen but you’ve got to keep it on the burner.”

He also said another important thing that the mayor and board needs to do is appoint good department heads.

“You’ve got to surround yourself with capable people,” he said.

Allen said he sees a need for the next mayor to concentrate on “quality of life issues.”

“Streets and beautification are things the city needs to work on,” he said. “When you start with those types of things the rest comes in behind it.”

Director of the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce Debbie Hudson also said quality of life issues need to be addressed by the next administration.

Hudson said beautification projects, marketing and family recreation areas all need to be addressed in the next mayoral term.

“Those are the types of things that draw new families and new business to an area,” she said.

While quality of life issues in the city are on the minds of many, some issues to be addressed have more far reaching ramifications.

Director of the Downtown Development Association Carrie Lambert said the city’s mayor should concentrate on developing tourism as an industry in Natchez.

She said the mayor must adopt a new way of thinking about tourism.

“We need to be able to reach the tourists of today,” she said.

Lambert said baby boomers of today make up a great number of tourists.

“They’re not taking bus trips,” she said.

Lambert said the mayor should be able to realize new trends in tourism and travel and move the city in a direction to meet them.

Hudson, like many others, also voiced a great concern for street repairs in Natchez.

“When people come into the city they should see better streets,” she said. “It shows people what we take pride in.”

With so much economic development taking place in the city, this election and the next four years are key to the city, everyone agrees.

“I think this election is very important because there are a lot of things on the horizon that need to be finished,” Byrne said.

Byrne said it’s going to take good leadership to bring in the two new casinos and make sure the city gets good benefits from them being here.

Stedman said all elections are equally as important.

“You are hiring the chief operating officer for the city and his board of directors and those are the people who are going to be making the decisions on the direction our city will take in the next four years,” she said.