Natchez, Adams County sign off on hiring lobbying firm

Published 4:56 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2020

NATCHEZ — City and county officials have hired a lobbyist in hopes of securing state and federal support for local projects.

In a special-called meeting Wednesday, the Adams County Board of Supervisors approved a joint resolution with the City of Natchez to hire former congressman Gregg Harper with Watkins & Eager to provide lobbyist services to the city and county at a rate of $8,000 per month beginning in October.

The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen approved the resolution in a regularly scheduled board meeting last week.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the cost of Harper’s services had been reduced from $10,000 to $8,000 per month, which is being split between the City of Natchez and Adams County.

Any additional fees procured through Harper’s lobbying services will offset by Natchez Inc.

“(Adams County Board of Supervisors) president Ricky Gray, recognizing the current financial situation with the city and the county in the COVID-19 pandemic and recognizing Natchez Inc.’s partnership with it, helped renegotiate the contract, which resulted in a lowering of the fee,” Gibson said. “It will be $8,000 a month beginning in October through 2021, which is a savings to the city of about $15,000 in the upcoming fiscal year.”

In a presentation to the Board of Aldermen, Harper said having an office and near-constant presence working in Jackson on behalf of Natchez and Adams County could generate greater results locating funding for economic development projects.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic allows for travel to Washington, D.C. Watkins & Eager would also have a better chance at procuring federal support and funds as well, Harper said.

“It is a matter of building up relationships on a federal level,” he said. “You as a board are not necessarily going to be in D.C. every week or every month. You might do one fly in a year. Pre-coronavirus, I was in D.C. two or three times a month and that is what we will be back to I believe later in the fall or sometime early next year.

“We need to make sure we are doing those things to keep the city’s and the county’s economic development opportunities at the forefront of our delegation.”

Gibson, who was a lobbyist prior to becoming mayor, said he intends to continue lobbying for Natchez but cannot be a full-time lobbyist.

“I am going to continue lobbying for Natchez,” Gibson said. “Natchez is my client and I’m excited. But as mayor, I’m the chief executive officer of a city of about 15,000 people, a budget of $37 million and employees of around 250 in numerous departments. As a city, we have so much going on every single day that as a full-time mayor I cannot be a full-time lobbyist. In Jackson, it is important for a city to have a daily presence — especially when there is a legislative session.”