New director familiar with Natchez

Published 12:03 am Friday, September 21, 2012

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez’s new community development director may be just a few weeks on the job, but he has had his hands in a few familiar projects from years past.

James Johnston worked in Natchez at the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District and then was hired as a grant writer for the city in 1999

He most recently left his job as the Claiborne County administrator to become the city’s community development director.

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Johnston was involved in the first transformation of Brumfield Apartments into affordable housing and, coincidentally, that is one of the projects Johnston is working on now.

The property, which was formerly owned by Gleichman and Company and was abandoned by its management company, Stanford Management, in February 2011, was in the process of being foreclosed on when the city bought the mortgage on it from Britton & Koontz Bank in January.

Johnston and the city are working to open Brumfield back up to residents, along with the old general hospital, which is owned by Gleichman.

During his previous tenure working with and for the city, Johnston was also involved in rehabilitation projects in Woodlawn, the downtown tree-planting project, north Natchez spray grounds and others.

Johnston hopes to use that wealth of knowledge of city projects and apply it to new initiatives in the city. He said his role as community development director will be coordinating the efforts of city departments to bring in state and federal funds for projects to improve Natchezians’ quality of life.

“Will grant writing be a part of it? Sure, but I hope it will be much more than that,” he said.

When Mayor Butch Brown asked him to come work for the city, Johnston said he did not hesitate.

“I enjoyed working with the mayor during his first two terms of mayor, and I believe he is trying to recreate a lot of that excitement again, and I want to be a part of it,” he said.

For now, Johnston said he is playing catch-up.

“I’ve only been here a short period of time, and I probably already have two dozen project files,” he said.

Johnston said he looks forward to working with city, county and economic development officials to further progress in Natchez.

“If everyone works together and has a concentrated effort to improve the community, we will be successful,” Johnston said.