Gibson at 3rd State of the City address: Press forward, finish strong
Published 1:02 am Tuesday, July 25, 2023
NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson reminded the Natchez community the city has much to celebrate, and much work to do.
Gibson gave his third State of the City address Monday night in the Natchez City Auditorium. He is entering the last year of his current term.
Before discussing the city’s accomplishments, Gibson recognized the good works of four men the community lost within the last year.
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“I stand on the heels of four great men who went before me — Butch Brown, Tommy Ferrell, Dan Dillard and Ron Miller. None of us would be here tonight celebrating the Natchez Renewal if not for these four men,” Gibson said.
Brown was a former Natchez mayor; Ferrell former Adams County Sheriff; Dillard former long-time Ward 6 alderman; and Miller the former executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation.
Gibson likened this point in his term to a marathon, pointing out the accomplishment of Natchezian Forrest Johnson, who last year completed his 50th marathon.
“It’s time to be pressing forward if we want to make a strong finish. We have so much to celebrate, but so much yet to do,” he said.
The evening was mostly about thanking those on his team and the city’s staff and in the community who have supported the efforts of his administration
The Natchez Renewal is happening because of teamwork, he said.
“I would not be here without you. I stand on your shoulders,” Gibson said.
In terms of economic development, he said the city has surpassed 1,000 new jobs in the last three years, and more than 250 new small businesses have opened in the city during that time.
Gibson thanked Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez Inc., and Lyn Jenkins, executive director of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, for their work in economic development here.
Sales tax revenues are up $100,000 in the last year and $400,000 more than two years ago. Ad valorem taxes are up $300,000 over three years ago, he said.
“Revenue is up over $8 million over the same time three years ago, and that’s with no new taxes,” Gibson said.
The housing market is strong here, including more than 1,000 real estate sales and 700 building permits, totaling $70 million in new construction, he said.
Gibson thanked the Downtown Natchez Alliance for increased development downtown, and thanked Darby and Dennis Short for developing their 15,000 square foot furniture and interior design store on Main Street.
There are so many projects ongoing downtown, “I think they are going to run out of scaffolding at Delta Rentals,” Gibson said.
“Despite all of this success, Natchez deserves more,” he said.
Gibson said he expects Velocys, a company developing fuel from timber waste, to begin its work in 2025.
He heralded Med Natchez, a medical district, and work he said is beginning now with a task force led by Karen Stubbs, wife of Dr. Kenneth Stubbs, to recruit new physicians to the community.
“We have lost too many doctors in Natchez and we recently learned that the city’s only orthopedist had his contract not renewed,” by Merit Health, Gibson said. Natchez is in need of more doctors and more medical specialists in order spur and sustain growth.
He thanked Jimmy Smith, new owner of Trace Town Shopping Center, for improvements he is making there. Trace Town is in the city’s new medical district. He also thanked Richard and Kim Lanasa, who own the former Community Hospital property, and Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center for the million dollar-plus investment it has made in its clinic in the medical district.
Gibson celebrated strides in education in Natchez by all schools — public, private and parochial.
“A week from today at 9 a.m. we will cut the ribbon on the newest high school facility in the state of Mississippi,” he said.
Students at Natchez Early College received their associate’s degree three weeks before their high school diplomas, thanks to the partnership between Natchez-Adams Schools and Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
Gibson thanked the city’s law enforcement officers, Chief Cal Green, and Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten for working together to make Natchez and Adams County a safer place. He pointed to statistics that show violent crime is down 40 percent in five years and more than 54 percent from 30 years ago. He said non-violent crime is down 35 percent in the last five years and 65 percent from 30 years ago.
“And we can do more,” Gibson said. He said the city has entered into a contract with Entergy to add LED lighting in the city, and is adding an additional 50 cameras in the next year, which he said not only helps solve crimes, but prevents it.
He thanked Municipal Judge Lisa Dale and asked of other judges “when our police officers arrest criminals and put them in jails, please do all you can to make sure they stay there!”
He thanked Fire Chief Robert Arrington and members of the Natchez Fire Department, which he said protects an area of 462 square miles.
Gibson also thanked other departments and department heads in the city.
He thanked Devin Heath, executive director of Visit Natchez and Warren Reuther and Walter Tipton of the Natchez Grand and the Natchez Convention Center, and mentioned a number of tourism milestones and recognitions the city has enjoyed during the last three years.
“Tourism means big bucks. It has created 1,500 jobs here. Tourists spent $100 million in Natchez last year, which brought us $1.6 million in tax revenue from outside the area,” Gibson said.
He ended by asking community members to continue to lift each other and Natchez up.
“Together, we have lifted Natchez higher. It is fitting we are that shining city on the highest hill. Let’s take our Natchez Renewal to higher heights. Lift each other up! Lift our city higher, this city we all love. Because we are Natchez strong. Because Natchez deserves more,” Gibson said.
The entire 2023 State of the City address can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/live/-AtfhCBCPNs?feature=share