Mayor’s race is all about details

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 4, 2008

Conventional wisdom says the devil is in the details, and that is certainly true when it comes to leading the City of Natchez.

When we interviewed the Democratic candidates for the position of Natchez mayor, we liked both men on the surface. Incumbent Mayor Phillip West and challenger Jake Middleton are both likable and genuinely want what’s best for Natchez.

However, when we review the actual performance and study the characteristics of each, a difference begins to become apparent.

Email newsletter signup

Incumbent West has been in the right place at the right time on a number of issues. No doubt hurricanes Katrina and Rita reshaped the City of Natchez, and West has taken credit for many of the good things the hurricane winds blew into town.

Looking just at the economic boom recognizes only a small portion of his performance.

West’s administration has been riddled with a series of bad decisions — many of which speak to his inability to judge character in others and work effectively within a team.

Details are lost on West. He’s mostly concerned with having his way on the issues.

From his heavy-handed move to force the police chief to hire back a former officer who had pleaded no contest to serious criminal charges to no fewer than three city planners in as many years, West’s basic management of the city’s department heads has been poor at best.

On West’s watch, the city’s mishandling of a proposed condo development thrust Natchez negatively into the statewide spotlight.

Further, when West announced that a bond refinance deal for the Convention Center would bring the city $400,000, we saw more proof that he doesn’t pay attention to details — the value turned out to be less than half of what West touted.

And, despite throwing money at the City Planning Office, the city’s code enforcement efforts seem to be at an all-time low.

Drive along almost any city street and you’ll discover that the city hasn’t repaved major arteries in years and years.

Natchez has become rough around the edges during West’s term. We need someone who will focus on the details and rebuild some of the credibility we’ve lost.

Middleton, however, isn’t the perfect candidate, either. For someone who has been a member of the Natchez Board of Aldermen for years, we know of few specific projects he has spearheaded.

But as a businessman, who faces the challenges of working with others and providing customer service, we think he’s the best Democratic choice on the ballot.

As mayor, we don’t think Middleton will rule with the “my way or the highway” of West, which is good, but Middleton needs to step up and take a stand on more issues. He needs to outline a vision of what he wants in the city.

Some of his ideas are good; some others — like turning the former Belwood Country Club into a recreation facility — are not. But we’ll take someone who can play well with others and focus on the details any day.