Voting for two on election day

Published 12:09 am Friday, August 5, 2011

Gibson isn’t old enough to vote, but when we went to the polls I can say with 100 percent certainty that his voice was heard.

Before having a child, I looked upon voting as basically a patriotic duty. It may be because I never saw myself as having a personal stake in the communities in which I lived before now. In my 20s I lived in five different cities, always changing jobs, never settling down enough to buy a house. Even ten years in Natchez married to a local girl wasn’t enough for me to consider that my vote at the ballot box somehow shaped my own future in this place. Yes, I voted for the people I felt were most qualified for the job, but it wasn’t until this election that I considered how much my vote directly affected my family.

This time, the vote was about my 2 year-old son, which about as personal as it gets for me these days.

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When I stepped from my car Tuesday morning for the primary election, I turned to help Gibson from his car seat and we joined my wife to walk to the precinct to do more than our patriotic duty this time.

I have early memories of standing beside my parents each time they voted. It wasn’t until this week, though, that I realized that they were not just voting for themselves but also voting for the future they hoped for their three children.

Nearly two years ago, the voices of voters in Natchez and Adams County also voted for the future. With nearly an 80 percent to 20 percent margin you would have thought their voices were loud and clear in approving a non-binding referendum in support of a new recreation complex.

While the vote in support of recreation passed overwhelmingly, it carried no legal weight, it was “non-binding” after all, and did not force any of our local leaders to find the money for such a complex and start building. It was not a guarantee that anything would ever get built.

And that has been the problem for the last two years.

Despite the 2009 vote, the formation of a recreation commission and the development of plans for the bean field site across from Natchez High School, the Adams County Board of Supervisors — or maybe a few of them — have been dragging their feet on the issue.

In May, the board delayed any talk of funding the project for several months until they could get several spending issues settled — in effect holding the recreation issue hostage for the unforeseen future.

Since then, voters have been left waiting to see if the recreation complex will ever come to fruition — or maybe they were just waiting for the opportunity to tell the board of supervisors that enough is enough. Instead of having their voices fall on a few deaf ears, voters decided to make their recreation opinions binding this time.

When all is said and done, recreation may end up being the biggest defining issue of this year’s local elections.

Tuesday’s elections netted a huge victory for one of recreation’s biggest supporters and a resounding loss for one of the issue’s biggest detractors.

Winning with more than 70 percent of the vote, District 1 supervisor Mike Lazarus has been the loudest voice for recreation on the board. He faced opposition from a candidate who criticized Lazarus for not paying enough attention on jobs while focusing attention on a recreation complex that will cost taxpayers.

Meanwhile, District 5 supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter who has been a luke-warm supporter of the issue all along lost to Calvin Butler in a three-way race Tuesday. Felter has said he is a supporter of the issue, but has recently expressed his skepticism, wondering if another vote should be put on the ballot — this time in a binding referendum. Voters didn’t give him the chance.

Gibson watched with interest from my arms as I filled out the computer ballot Tuesday morning. When my ballot was cast, Gibson reached out to take the voter card from the machine and proudly marched to return it to the poll workers.

Walking out of the precinct, we passed by one of the candidates who reached out to Gibson with a large plate of cookies. Seeing my son’s eyes light up, I picked out a small morsel, knowing that Gibson would take the entire plate with him if he could. Walking away I remarked to my wife that I could imagine our son licking his lips saying, “You’ve got my vote.”

Thankfully my vote didn’t come that easy. I voted for my son’s future.

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at