Supervisor candidates take floor in Natchez

Published 12:01 am Saturday, October 15, 2011

Natchez — Approximately 25 residents crawled out of bed early Friday to grab coffee at Natchez Coffee Company and hear four Natchez Board of Supervisors candidates give their positions on several election issues at a Friday Forum.

District 2 candidates, David Carter and Henry Watts, and District 5 candidates, Calvin Butler and Grady Wilson, answered questions on recreation, education and other issues at the forum, hosted by the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce.

District 2

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Carter and Watts were asked if they could clarify their positions on recreation and whether or not they believed recreation could be funded without a tax increase.

Carter said he believed county recreation is not currently set up for economic profitability and should be modeled after other successful recreation programs.

“If managed properly, it can be something that can generate money,” he said. “We feel certain it can be done without a tax increase.”

Watts said his focus is getting industries to town and recreation would come with that.

“You bring these jobs in here, you’re going to bring tax revenue,” he said. “Then you’re going to have a tax base to support recreation.”

Carter said Natchez is by no means in a unique situation on education. He said changes should be modeled after places that have had success.

“We can say it’s parents, we can say it’s poverty, but when it comes down to it, those are excuses,” Carter said.

Watts said family must be involved in a child’s education. He said the new school board will bring dramatic changes.

“It’s got to start with your leaders,” he said.

After an audience member said he would like to see school board officials elected, Watts said he agreed. Watts said elected school board members would increase accountability.

Carter said he sees pros and cons with an elected school board.

“To me I think the supervisors should have more accountability because we’re the ones who appoint the school board.”

The county’s budget has increased 28 percent over the past seven years. The candidates were asked if they thought the people were receiving a good value in their government.

Watts said sometimes budgets look bigger because grants are counted into the general fund. Watts said he believed residents were receiving a good value, but it was up to the public to decide.

Carter said the greatest things that happen in Adams County are done by everyday citizens, and the government has definitely supported citizens and groups.

“I think what people want to see is something tangible,” he said.

Watts reiterated in closing that job creation and industrial economic development were his main focuses. He said getting companies to Natchez would eliminate both the city and county having to take out tax-anticipation loans.

“I think this whole room should focus on these jobs and these tax revenues,” Watts said.

Carter said people should vote for him not for his effort but for his results.

“If I get in there, and we don’t see any change, I won’t be on the ballot again in four years,” he said. “That’s a promise I will make.”

District 5

Both District 5 candidates said they were against a tax increase for recreation.

Butler said recreation would pay for itself.

“We need to be aware it can pay for itself in the long run,” he said. “Let’s get it going and see what it does.”

Wilson said that improving education will lead to recreation.

“If we get the education value up, that department is going to come hand in hand.

Both candidates also said they would have to see research and see numbers on several aspects of consolidation before casting a vote.

Butler said the city and the county have the opportunity now to look at consolidation with the upcoming retirement of Natchez Police Chief Mike Mullins.

“You have to look at the pros and cons,” Butler said. “When you consolidate, you eliminate jobs. I would have to see numbers.”

“I would have to see a better understanding of it,” Wilson said.

Wilson said anyone in government should have business experience.

“Right now the government is run like an open checkbook,” he said.

Butler had a couple of ideas that he said would make and save money, including a penal farm where inmates farmed vegetables that were sold in the community and a volunteer litter control committee to impose on-the-spot littering fines.

Wilson said he has a 100 percent commitment to moving Adams County and Natchez forward.

Butler said his past community work and his commitment to the community are why people should vote for him.

Elections for Districts 2 and 5 will be Nov. 8.