From the Mayor’s Desk: Good news all around, because Natchez deserves more 

Published 11:47 pm Sunday, May 12, 2024

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As I began preparing to write my article for this week, it was challenging to pick just one topic – there is good news all around! Starting with the news that Natchez has received over $6 million for projects from the 2024 Mississippi Legislature, bringing us now within only $3 million of our goal to reach $50 million in grants and special appropriations for Natchez by the end of 2024, accomplished in the past four years.

Many thanks to our legislative and state leaders, and especially partners like Katie Blount, executive director of the MS Department of Archives and History, and Jim Miller, executive director of Mississippi Main Street, as well as leaders in our local DNA – Downtown Natchez Alliance. Natchez Grand Village will be receiving an additional $6 million for a greatly improved facility and visitor experience, and the City of Natchez is receiving $362,000 for beautiful renovations to the plaza and grounds of our Historic Depot on Broadway Street, which is close to being completed as our new Downtown Visitors Center with public bathrooms and premier meeting space. This is the kind of news that makes for a great May.

These good headlines are icing on the cake of so many other great things happening for Natchez:

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• Natchez Early College again ranks as one of the top high schools in the nation, and #21 in the State of Mississippi! NEC will soon be graduating many more seniors, most of them equipped also with Associate Degrees and ready to being their junior year of college.

• Natchez Teacher Tamla Hughes is awarded Alternate Teacher of the Year for the State of Mississippi – the first time any teacher from our area has been so recognized.

• A $30 million luxury RV resort breaks ground just south of Natchez off Hwy 61 – this will become one of the region’s largest and finest outdoor attractions, complete with a beach and lazy river.

• Another new business opens, TMR Auto on JR Junkin, bringing our total new businesses since 2020 to over 360 – several more projects, some very large, are under way or coming soon.

• Workforce Development is going great – our recent Employer Roundtable was a success with participation from many local industries, another regional job fair is coming to the Convention Center June 6, and plans are progressing for a Natchez Coding Academy to open here.

• The city has completed its paving project of almost 50 streets in Natchez, and a resurfacing of more streets, including Main, Franklin, Canal, and Homochitto, and others, is about to begin. Long-awaited repairs to the Canal Street Bridge are also about to take place, and Morgantown Road is again being bid – hopefully for the last time!

• Hundreds of kids are again playing ball on renovated fields at Duncan Park for the first time in years – and the county’s Chester Willis Field is beautiful after a major renovation.

• Sales tax revenues continue to be strong with tourism in full gear – thousands of tourists have been arriving by riverboat since the resumption of cruises by American Cruise Lines and Viking in the early Spring – and the national ratings and accolades for our beautiful city continue.

• The Natchez Festival of Music, now in its 34th year, is holding so many concerts, lectures, and events, it’s hard to count – never have we had so many things to do.

• Live at Five has returned on Fridays on the Bluff, and for the next several weeks, thanks to the leadership of Sarah Lindsey Laukhuff, locals and tourists can relax in their lawn chairs and enjoy great tunes and beautiful sunsets.

• Speaking of sunsets, Natchez has kicked off a “Sunset Capital of the South” photo contest – amateur photographers stand to win their share of several thousand in cash awards, being presented monthly in checks of $500 thanks to the sponsorship of local physician Randy Tillman.

The list could go on and on, but I am out of room. Of course, we still have our challenges – we always will. And there are a number of projects still to be completed as we begin looking to the next four years. But it’s important to take note of the positive, and there is a lot of it. We’re doing great in our beautiful city on the highest hill. Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.