Sunday Focus: Does experience matter in mayoral race?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

NATCHEZ — Tuesday’s election will see two very different candidates square off for the mayor’s seat at Natchez City Hall.

Former Adams County supervisor and Democratic candidate Darryl Grennell has 18 years of public service as an elected official under his belt.

Independent Eric Junkin, the City of Natchez’s former information technology director, has never held an elected office. Junkin will tell you that he is not a politician.

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With 18 years of experience going up against no experience, the two candidates have opposing views on whether experience matters.

Grennell touts his experience and said it is crucial to have an understanding of how local government operates to successfully manage it.

“I don’t think there’s a question that experience matters,” Grennell said. “It does, especially in terms of how to do certain things as it relates to governmental law. You need to be familiar with things. Take overlaying a street, for example. I can understand how that process works from what (type of equipment) will be used to funding, as well as the formula for millage or how to perform bond issues.”

Grennell said his experience mainly comes from all he learned while serving as a county supervisor and president of the supervisors’ board.

“When I was a county supervisor, there were over 400 duties for a supervisor,” he said. “There’s a ton of experience I’ve gained, and hopefully with that experience, I can help to facilitate and move the city forward to the next level where it needs to go.”

In Junkin’s opinion, experience does not matter.

Junkin said he thinks the political system has been distorted by the thought that elected officials need experience to successfully perform their duties.

“From the city all the way to Washington … you hear people talk about term limits, all kinds of things that would limit the politicians on how they would do things for themselves, how they don’t pay attention to civilians and voters, and that our system was founded on people coming and serving their community or state or nation for a short period of time and then going back to their job,” Junkin said. “That’s the way our system was formed and theoretically intended to be. I believe the system is corrupted by the people who are currently in it.”

In addition to their different takes on experience, Grennell and Junkin have also been running different kinds of campaigns.

Grennell said he has made it a point to visit every street in the city since he started campaigning to look voters in the eye and ask for their support.

“One of the greatest things about going door to door … is I get to look at every street, know where every street is located and the conditions of the streets,” Grennell said. “And I get to have face-to-face conversations with the citizens and listen to their concerns. I have been writing down the concerns of this community … from street lights to potholes.”

Junkin said he has not knocked on doors or put up campaign signs around the city because that is not his personality. Junkin has mainly connected with voters through social media and his website.

“I decided to not put out signs, and (instead) hand out business cards,” he said. “I’ve not gone door to door. (That) has to do with my personal preference … and my own personality. I haven’t solicited any money. I think the $650 I will report on my final campaign reports, I haven’t solicited it. I don’t think I’ve asked anyone for money. People just gave me money.”

While some voters may think the mayoral election was decided when Grennell defeated Alderman Tony Fields in the Democratic primary, Grennell and Junkin say they have never assumed their fate.

“I take nothing for granted,” Grennell said. “I’m working every single day. I’m out there every single day … doing everything I can to let voters know the election is Tuesday. My focus has only been on Darryl Grennell the whole time I ran, even during the primary. I’ve not considered who is an underdog or who isn’t. I’m just out there knocking on doors and encouraging people to vote for me.”

Junkin has also not approached the election as a David v. Goliath matchup.

“I am running for my own reasons,” Junkin said. “I don’t see it as a an underdog and a non-underdog. Statistically, yes, that’s probably what the word is.”