Get ready for a new kind of city leadership

Published 12:11 am Friday, June 22, 2012

Butch Brown is ready to get down to business. Butch Brown is ready for results.

After almost three hours of discussion between the mayor-elect and the board of aldermen-elect Tuesday, those two things are clear.

In a retreat arranged by Brown, the people who will lead our city for the next four years discussed many issues ranging from the basic rules of regular board meetings to possible personnel changes.

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At each point of the retreat, the same message rang loud and clear — things are going to change.

The phones will be answered at City Hall, overgrown lawns will be mowed, litter will be picked up, police will be visible on the streets, businesses will not get the run-around in the planning office and there will be communication between the mayor and the aldermen.

And those are just a few of the highlights. In Brown’s mind there will be changes in all branches of government, including the judicial branch.

Government will be streamlined. Fines will be paid. There will not be an Arlington mess on Brown’s watch.

Has the ship veered so far off course in the last twelve years?

It doesn’t take a long walk through downtown to find city properties that have been neglected and fallen into disrepair.

As the new Natchez Trails shine in the spotlight, Memorial Park sits neglected. Once one of the city’s gems, it now is poorly lit. Paint is peeling from a fountain that was restored just five years ago. The war memorial on the southwest entrance is a place of shame with its broken railings and chipped marble veneer on the steps.

Twelve years ago the city took pride in converting its large vacant buildings — like Brumfield School and both Carpenter Schools — into apartments and the senior center. While the senior center has been mostly successful, other buildings have fallen into such disrepair that they have been closed. The city has taken back Brumfield Apartments which bides its time as a LUMP — a large unused municipal property — an acronym much used in Brown’s first administration.

I wouldn’t expect immediate solutions to Brumfield Apartments and other complicated issues when the mayor and board are sworn in July 2, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Brown hasn’t already made several phone calls and network opportunities toward a resolution.

During the retreat, Brown clearly demonstrated that he has spent countless hours preparing for the day he is sworn into office. While everyone else was trying to beat him, it appears as if Butch has been in a pre-mayor phase all along.

Yes, changes are coming — many of them are coming on July 2.

As much as voters like to see change, sometimes it comes at a cost.

Scofflaw residents will pay their outstanding fines, slacker landlords will mow their lawns or face citations and insensitive businesses will keep their properties neat and litter free.

Bigger changes tossed around in Tuesday’s retreat will come with a bigger price tag, Brown pointed out. Who pays the price tag is the ultimate question.

Brown noted at the retreat Tuesday that he likes immediate gratification and results. He admitted that department heads and city employees probably need to take a class focused on how to deal with Butch Brown.

Maybe we all need to register for a class, because Butch is back.


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