From the mayor’s desk: Remembering Dan Dillard

Published 11:38 pm Saturday, April 8, 2023

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This week, we said goodbye to a great public servant of Natchez, Daniel George Dillard – longtime alderman, Mayor Pro Tem, and friend. It’s only been a little over a week since we received the sad news that Dan had passed away – and we already miss him.

Mr. Dillard, known to his family as Daniel but as Dan to the rest of us, was a native Natchezian, born to loving parents G.W. and Emma Dillard. He grew up with brothers Johnny Mack, Henry, and Joe, and sister Patsy – loving the history of Natchez and the beautiful outdoors. Dan graduated from South Natchez High School in 1973, and then attended Mississippi State University, graduating with a degree in Architecture in 1989.

Dan married the love of his life, a young widow named Janet Cole Havard in August of 1989, and immediately became adopted dad to her two beautiful young daughters Meggie and Selah. Becoming a family man so quickly agreed with Dan, and he and Janet went on to have two more children, Pate and Abby. Dan and Janet’s family eventually grew to a large one. His seventh granddaughter Emma was born just three weeks ago, and another little boy is expected soon!

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In 2008, voters of Ward Six elected Dan to be their alderman. This was a position he valued greatly, and he certainly put his heart and soul into it! After easily winning a fourth term in 2020, he was appointed by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to the position of Mayor Pro Tem. He also chaired the city’s Public Properties Committee. Dan diligently performed his duties, advocating for safer structures, needed infrastructure improvements, proper compensation for police and first responders, and fiscal responsibility for the City of Natchez.

In addition to working for the city, Dan cherished a position he held for several years, working for Magnolia Bluffs Casino and Hotel as their Facilities Manager. He very likely put in “two days’ work” every day, working hard to maintain a safe and happy environment for employees and casino and hotel patrons alike. After work, he enjoyed time with his family and friends, fishing with his grandsons, and hanging out Under the Hill where he had become a beloved fixture.

We will all miss Dan. When I received the news a week ago Wednesday, I couldn’t believe it. We had just seen Dan at our city board meeting the night before. It had been a great meeting, and we even followed it up with a brief meeting afterwards with our Fire Chief Robert Arrington and Alderman Ben Davis, Chairman of the city’s Fire Department Committee, discussing ways to make Natchez safer and how we could better care for our first responders.

I will miss Dan’s constant concern for the city, its employees, and its finances. I will miss his humor, his friendly nature, warm smile, and hilarious colloquialisms. Just Tuesday night, he had challenged me to beat his record in running a short meeting as Mayor Pro Tem. I missed his record by 10 minutes!

In time, the city will hold another election, and a new Alderman for Ward Six will be elected, for the first time in almost 15 years. We will continue to move forward with so many great projects and endeavors that Alderman Dan Dillard was very much a part of. But we will always remember and miss him.

I pray Dan is at peace with his beloved Janet. She passed away sadly a few years ago, and his life was never quite the same without her. Theirs was truly a sweet love story.

May God bless and comfort Dan’s family and friends, and may God’s hand be on our city during this time of transition. I pray that others will step forward to lead with the love and dedication for our city that Dan had. Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.