Incumbent aldermen Mathis, Dillard win; Fortenbery loses

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

NATCHEZ — Two of the three incumbents running in the Natchez alderman primary election Tuesday held onto their seats, while there will be a run-off in Ward 4.

Challenger Benjamin Davis ousted Ward 5 incumbent Mark Fortenbery in unofficial results.

Ward 1 incumbent Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and Ward 6 incumbent Dan Dillard were elected to serve another term.

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Billy Joe Frazier was elected in Ward 2 to serve in the former seat of Ricky Gray, who is now serving on the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

In Ward 4, Tony Fields’ current seat, Joseph Gunning will be in a runoff against Felicia Irving on May 24.

Sarah Carter Smith was running unopposed in Ward 3.

All totals are unofficial as affidavits and absentee ballets have not been counted.

In Ward 1, Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis received 470 votes compared to 265 for challenger Rene Adams.

Arceneaux-Mathis said it has been a tough campaign, but she was pleased with the results.

“I think the people know we are going in a great direction,” she said.

Over the next four years, the incumbent says she will be focusing on getting the swimming pool complex operational, improving the area playgrounds, continue to get SNAP funds to renovate houses and work with the police to improve public safety. Tourism and job creation are also high up on her list.

Adams said she wanted to congratulate Arceneaux-Mathis on the victory.

“She has worked very hard for our community for 20 years,” she said. “It was obvious the people of her district absolutely support her. I congratulate her on a wonderful race.”

Ward 2 residents elected Billy Joe Frazier by a large margin. The former police officer received 506 votes compared to Tamathy Dunn-Franklin’s 128 votes and Brian Johnson’s 98.

“I would like to thank the voters of Ward 2 for electing me alderman,” he said. “This is my second time running, but it is something I wanted. I wanted to represent the people — I grew up in Ward 2.”

Frazier said he wanted to work for the citizens of Ward 2 as well as the whole of Natchez and Adams County.

In Ward 4, Joseph Gunning received 236 votes, while Felicia Irving garnered 170. For the runners up, Barbara Bruce received 142 votes, Edwin White 135 and Jeremy Houston 55.

While Gunning said he was disappointed in voter turnout, he was pleased about being on top.

“If elected, I am going to work with the new mayor, the new board of alderman, and try to get this town back in order,” he said. “We need to get the finances straight, get the tourism board back in order and look for industry.”

If elected, Irving said she was ready for the challenge to move the City of Natchez forward.

“The most pressing thing now is the budget — we have got to get this budget balanced,” she said. “The other thing is tourism, we have got to sell Natchez to other areas and we have to do our best to attract industry to come here.”

Benjamin Davis received 322 votes compared to incumbent Mark Fortenbery’s 237 votes.

Davis, retired from the U.S. Army, said he has been putting in a lot of work walking the streets and knocking on doors.

“The people put me there — they wanted a change,” he said. “I am honored. I want to be fair to the people and I am going to do the job.”

Davis said he is looking forward to bringing the ward and city together.

“I want to connect with the other aldermen, talk with them, and make sure we are all on the same page,” he said. “I want to lead this city in the right direction.”

Fortenbery said he wishes Davis all of the luck in the world.

“I hope he realizes what he has gotten himself into and he can perform to the standard of what this community deserves,” he said. “It was heartbreaking to hear this after 8 years, but the people have spoken. It is what it is.”

Dan Dillard received 434 votes compared to Agnes Holloway’s 284 in Ward 6.

“I am humbled by the support,” Dillard said. “My opponent, Agnes Holloway, is a wonderful person who is well liked in the community. She ran a good-spirited race.”

Getting the budget balanced is the most important thing the board can do.

“We have to get our financial house in order,” Dillard said. “I think we have to go back to the audit and use revenues that the city can realistically expect to receive and start from there.”