‘Walking in God’s Favor’: Mayor highlights last four years, promising future of Natchez during inaugural address

Published 4:55 pm Monday, July 1, 2024

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NATCHEZ — The Mayor of Natchez’s second inaugural address induced applause and a few tears after the City of Natchez officials took their oath of office and began new terms on Monday.

Elected officials, including Mayor Dan Gibson, Ward One Alderwoman Valencia Hall, Ward Two Alderman Billie Joe Frazier, Ward Three Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith, Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater-Irving, Ward Five Alderman Benjamin Davis, Ward 6 Alderman Curtis Moroney and Municipal Judge Christina Ferrell Daugherty each placed their hand on the Bible and swore an oath to their city inside the Natchez Convention Center.

Dan M. Gibson, now serving his second term, is the first mayor to run unopposed for that seat of the City of Natchez since Mayor William G. Benbrook in 1922 and the first to earn a second consecutive term as Natchez Mayor since the late Butch Brown did so in 1996.

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His oath was administered by the Honorable James W. Kitchens, the Mississippi Supreme Court Justice. The Honorable E. Vincent Davis, Adams County Chancery Court Judge, administered the oath for each of the aldermen and for Judge Daugherty.

The oaths concluded with a poem from the late Natchez poet laureate G. Mark LaFrancis, delivered by his widow and former Justice Court Judge Eileen Maher.

After this, Gibson spoke proudly of the strides Natchez has made in the past four years as well as highlighted goals for both Natchez and Adams County in his current term.

It was recently announced that Natchez would receive an astonishing $24.57 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant to fund the Forks to Freedom corridor project after failing to receive the grant in 2023.

These funds, which have no match requirement, would pave the way with streets, pedestrian sidewalks, crossings and traffic improvements from the Forks of the Road historic site — once one of the largest slave markets in the nation — to the Natchez Bluff where it is proposed to build a U.S. Colored Troops monument. Within that corridor, the grant would also help to establish Hiram Revels Plaza honoring the first African American member of the United States Senate who also pastored Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Natchez.

After hearing that the city was close but missed out on the $12 million grant in 2023, Gibson said, “I asked the question, who did get it? And I found out that these other cities that got these important federal funds through the US Department of Transportation had actually asked for more than we did. I then asked the question, ‘Well, what is the limit?’ And the answer was $25 million. I said, ‘Well, we don’t want to appear greedy. Let’s apply for $24.5 (million).’”

Gibson also spoke of continuing to improve recreational opportunities, facilities and activities for youth in Natchez and the plans to build an indoor basketball gym at Duncan Park, rebuild a splash pad at North Natchez Park and restore the North Natchez Park pavilion

“We just completed a renovation of our parks, but it’s time for a recreational center,” he said.

He also spoke of the need for continued street improvements — including the ongoing need to resurface and dig drainage ditches for Morgantown Road ­— following the 50 paved streets completed in the last term.

“Fifty is not enough,” he said. “Natchez deserves more. And I can’t wait to see our downtown streets smoother, to see major thoroughfares like Canal Street and Homochitto Street smoother. We have a strategy and we hoped it would be starting now. We didn’t get the bid just right. But we are working on it. We will not stop.”

Gibson said it is with the favor of God that Natchez continues to be blessed, as a city that follows his command to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.

“We see too much bickering in Jackson. We see too much bickering in Washington. Let it be said of us that we set a new standard, that in keeping with our commitment to you and to the oath that we have taken in the presence of God Almighty, we’d look to his favor in his time because in his time all is made whole,” he said. “Had we gotten the (RAISE) grant a year ago leaving 12 million on the table, we also would have missed out on the opportunity to now improve crosswalk safety at every intersection of downtown Natchez. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t walked in God’s favor. So many great things are coming our way.”