Here are a few predictions for community

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 3, 2016

Friday marked the beginning of a yearlong celebration of Natchez’s founding, 300 years ago.

To start off the year, I thought it might be interesting to make a few predictions for the future. Not for the next 300 years, who knows what they may bring, but for a shorter period of time — just the year ahead.

Although the grandiose efforts originally envisioned for the Natchez’s tricentennial effort have been scaled back significantly, what remains appears to be a solid offering that could both bring new visitors and new attention to Natchez, but also bring a new sense of community in its wake.

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Chief tricentennial evangelist Jennifer Ogden Combs is a winner and a doer, and she’ll work hard to make it a success, no matter what. My money is on her and all of the dozens of other tricentennial workers and volunteers to make this year a true turning point for Natchez.

On the government front, all eyes will be on the upcoming municipal elections in the City of Natchez and the Town of Vidalia.

In Natchez, Mayor Butch Brown’s own health may be his biggest foe to date. He’s recovering from small strokes that have put the brakes on his normally hard-charging nature.

While many citizens are frustrated by Brown’s ability to ceaselessly push the envelope on pretty much all things, no definitive opponents have surfaced, at least not publicly.

The mayor’s position is important, but also stressful. If a Brown run for reelection would hamper his health, I hope he chooses his own health over his love of Natchez.

Of the rumored possible candidates, I’m not sure anyone can beat Brown, if he chooses to run again.

Across the river in Vidalia, the qualifying is set. Long-time Mayor Hyram Copeland will face former banker and fisherman Buz Craft.

Copeland has served as Vidalia mayor for 24 years, longer than his earlier career working at Sears department store.

Craft, a Vidalia native, seems to have a good shot at unseating Copeland, whose political swagger has been damaged over the last year or so. Copeland’s incessant public support for defeated U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and the insistence that he and the aldermen know best about the questionable Square on Carter project has diminished what was a pretty rock solid hold on his power. Craft should beat Copeland, as residents seem tired of the overspending by the current administration.

One Vidalia alderman has already been ousted — on an ethical challenge to her candidacy — and several challengers are hoping to unseat the longstanding board members. Chances at the board’s makeup may look different after the election.

Even if Copeland manages to win, a substantial change in the board’s complexion would mean the ease at which the mayor could get his agenda passed would be greatly diminished.

Natchez aldermen will have to either figure out the city’s financial woes by the end of the summer or they’ll have to find another scapegoat as the elected city clerk’s position is going away. For at least a few years now, all of the city’s financial problems have been laid at the feet of City Clerk Donnie Holloway. When he’s gone, the blame will reside solely at the feet of aldermen.

Also on the “I hope it improves” front, the Natchez-Adams School District must clean itself up soon. Regardless of what the district would like the public to believe, high levels of distrust exist in the district, sources inside the district suggest. The school board and the upper administration need to be cleared out and rebuilt.

My father would occasionally predict one of the rare New Orleans Saints victories of my childhood by predicting logically, “They’re due for one.” I think the same can be said for the local economic development efforts of Natchez Inc. and efforts across the river; hopefully it will be a big project that gets moving quickly.

I hope you had a great New Year’s and that the year ahead is a prosperous one for our community.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or