Celebrating achievements and looking ahead to growth

Published 8:29 pm Monday, September 4, 2023

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Words cannot express my gratitude for the overwhelming show of support as I announced my candidacy for reelection as your mayor in the ballroom of the Natchez Grand Thursday night. It was truly a night I shall never forget.

My dear friend and Natchez blues legend, YZ Ealey serenaded us. Prayers by Bishop Dr. Stanley Searcy of New Hope The Vision Center and my own pastor, Rev. Will Wilkerson of Jefferson Street Methodist, empowered our faith. Natchez Poet Galen Mark LaFrancis inspired us, while internationally loved vocalist Ora Reed sang that powerful standard that ushers forth patriotism in all of us, “God Bless America”.

I will forever be grateful for my wife and First Lady, Marla for always being there to encourage me and urge me forward – and for my family, other elected officials both current and past, firefighters, police officers, department directors, and countless friends, for being there to show their love and support. And a poignant moment that will forever live in my memory will be standing with my “brother from another mother” Tony Fields, my opponent in the 2020 election, who said, “I hope the two of us have shown you how things are supposed to be.”

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As I shared at the announcement party, I am excited about all the things happening in Natchez, and I am excited to now be running for another term. And yes, all of the great successes of our past three years do spur me on: 700 building permits worth over $70 million in new construction and renovation, over 1,000 new jobs, over 250 new businesses, record unemployment, nearly $40 million in state and federal funds for Natchez and our partners, booming sales tax collections, record tourism, and transformation of the North Natchez Youth Center, our parks, playgrounds, ballfields, and new tennis courts.

I am also excited about projects now underway: renovations to city properties including the Natchez Convention Center, City Auditorium, Civic Center, Police and Fire Departments, and the Duncan Park Golf Clubhouse. I am encouraged that our streets will soon be smoother thanks to a now-begun $6 million street resurfacing project, and I am also encouraged that our neighborhoods will soon be safer thanks to 50 new crime cameras and improved LED street lighting about to be installed in over half of our city.

Yet, even with all these accomplishments, as I shared Thursday night, what I am most grateful for is the work we have done to unite Natchez, moving past such a difficult history and the divisions of our past to enjoy and celebrate such a great present, and now to embrace and look forward to such a robust and amazing future. This is why I ran for mayor, and this is why I am running for mayor again – so that, as a part of this great Natchez Renewal, I can continue to work with so many others in our community to share the light and love that emanates from our “shining city on the highest hill” – so our renewal may lead to a Mississippi Renewal and even an American Renewal.

I truly believe, in the words of Burt Bacharach, that “what the world needs now is love, sweet love – that’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” I believe also that, in the words of Marvin Gaye, “war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate.” I am encouraged that the dream Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had for Mississippi is truly coming to pass in our time, a state that is being “transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” And in my heart, I am daily empowered by the great command of Jesus, “to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourself.”

I truly love Natchez, and I continue to be grateful for your confidence and support. This is why I love being your mayor. And this is why I hope to continue as your mayor  – Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.

Editor’s note: Information in this article is the opinion of the writer and The Natchez Democrat has not verified statements presented as being factual.