Former police officer challenging Gray in Ward 2

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, April 10, 2012

NATCHEZ — Improving the quality of life for residents of Natchez and making government work more effectively for the people were issues of importance for the candidates for the alderman Ward 2 seat.

Bille Joe Frazier

Candidate Billie Joe Frazier, 61, a Democrat who retired from the Natchez Police Department after 32 years, declined to discuss the specifics of his platform, saying that he preferred to do his campaigning face-to-face.

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“Natchez has problems dealing with rundown housing, economics, and what we need is to get together the supervisors and start working together and getting (businesses) to Natchez,” Frazier said.

The role of the aldermen in economic development is to recruit industry to town and make it a more prosperous place to live, Frazier said.

“We need to work together and do some long range planning for the City of Natchez and Adams County and make sure everything around here is running right,” he said. “Natchez is a good place to live, but we need long range planning.”

Part of that means that the board of aldermen and the mayor will have to work together, Frazier said.

“We would have to work together as one,” he said. “We need one body, working together as one strong body, for the good of Natchez. Whatever the aldermen do, it is for the good of Adams County. We should work together, not apart.”

One issue Frazier said he supported was further development of the area’s recreation opportunities.

“We need recreation not only for the kids, but we need more recreation for the elderly,” he said. “It is probably the most important thing, because Natchez is a tourist place, and if you are going to have tourists you need to have something for them to do.”

Frazier said he is the best candidate for the job because he is a people person, and has many years experience dealing with the public as a police officer and as the former jail administrator.

Frazier is a 1969 graduate of Sadie V. Thompson High School, and is married to Shelly Fitzgerald Frazier. He has two daughters, Jerita King and Courtney Frazier.

James “Rickey” Gray

Incumbent Rickey Gray said he first ran for office because he wanted to help people, and that after 12 years in office he strives to be the change he wants to see in the city. His work ethic and experience as an alderman, including voluntarily seeking certifications in government training, make him the best candidate, he said. 

The biggest issues the city faces are education and quality of life, he said.

“Once you get the quality of life and the education system right, then I think everything else will fall into place,” he said.

“Everybody knows in order to have a good work force you have got to have a good education system. (Potential businesses) look at your public school really to determine if they are going to locate in your city.”

The day-to-day recruiting of business is not the job of the aldermen, Gray said, but the aldermen address the issue by acting as responsible legislators and lobbyists for the city, he said.

“We make policy, and by me being on the Mississippi Municipal League, I helped bring the Small Town Conference to Natchez every so many years, so I personally go out and sell my city,” he said.

The city also needs to address the fact that its employees are underpaid — 15-year veterans make $12,000 a year — and the fact that government does not always seem to operate within the city charter, Gray said.

One example of Natchez not keeping its charter would be the fact that the city engineer is a contract rather than permanent position, he said.

Likewise, the city has a comprehensive plan that it does not always follow, and Gray said in recent years the changes in mayoral administrations have meant priorities have shifted.

“The only thing they have got to do is stick with the comprehensive plan,” he said. “Then it doesn’t matter who is running the show, the plan is already there.”

Gray said he would also continue to fight for his ward, especially to fight drainage. He also said he wants to see the city address the poverty there.

“All my life, wherever I went they said you judge a city by how they treat their poor people,” Gray said. “In my opinion, we have an ‘F’ right now.

“There are six aldermen with six districts, but you take care of needs first instead of what you want. We are taking care of wants, not needs. You have got people who really, really need in these areas I am talking about.”

The alderman said he considers it his job to ensure that revenue from the Roth Hill casino project goes to help the people of his ward.

Gray said he supports the proposed recreation project, and he said he doesn’t believe taxes would have to be raised to fund it.

“I think the county can float a bond for the $5 million (to build the complex), and they could pay that back over a certain amount of years, and we can use the city’s money we already have for recreation (to operate it),” he said. “Once the county pays off their portion of the $5 million, we can have an agreement where the city pays 60 percent and county pays 40 percent to operate it.”

Gray, 51, is a graduate of North Natchez High School. He also attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He has two children, Travis and Kennedy.