Aldermen votes may matter most

Published 1:01 am Monday, May 5, 2008

While much debate and discussion goes into the Natchez mayor’s race, six other positions within city government make up a more important wing than that of the mayor.

Natchez operates under the strong board, weak mayor system of government. That means that the six people who sit on the board of aldermen collectively hold the true legislative power in the city.

In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, 16 men and women will be in competition to become the nominees for six different aldermen positions. Some wards do not have any Republican candidates on the ticket, so for several wards Tuesday’s election could decide the faces of your representatives in government.

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We’ve interviewed almost all of the candidates — a few did not respond to attempts to reach them. And after reviewing their opinions, their records and their campaign issues, the following candidates receive our endorsement:

Ward 1: Retiring Fire Chief Paul Johnson earns our nod. We believe Johnson’s careful, calm demeanor would be a welcome addition to the board. And, he brings a unique perspective to the office as a long-time city employee and department head.

Ward 2: Incumbent James “Ricky” Gray earns our selection for the Ward 2 position. Through his last two terms, we’ve seen Gray grow into the role. He proudly touts that he’s the only member of the current board who has gone to all of the training offered by the Mississippi Municipal League.

Ward 3: Democrat Gwen Ball is unopposed and will face Republican incumbent Bob Pollard in the general election.

Ward 4: Incumbent Theodore “Bubber” West is the best, most knowledgeable candidate among the field. His years of experience will be invaluable to a board that’s guaranteed to have at least two new members, perhaps several more. His young challenger Ernest “Tony” Fields is filled with enthusiasm, but hasn’t yet invested enough time to truly understand the issues. In four years, if he works hard to get involved in city government, Fields will be ready.

Ward 5: Former Woodville Alderman Tim Sessions is our favorite in Ward 5. The former banker brings both an understanding of finance and a familiarity with public projects and financing. Out of all of the aldermen candidates — excluding incumbents — he was the one who most seemed to have a grasp on the city’s current budget and current spending practices. For a challenger, that’s impressive.

Ward 6: Architect Dan Dillard is the best choice in Ward 6. His professional experience means he brings much to the table in terms of his ability to work with others think out of the box and consider all sides of an issue.

While we think these candidates are the ones who will best represent the city, we urge you to look at the issues and vote for the man or woman that you think is the best.

Regardless of whom you choose, we just hope you’ll vote on Tuesday.