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Natchez aldermen set on picking new tourism director
from Staff Reports - NEWS
December 14, 2016 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – City aldermen voted Tuesday against giving up their power to appoint Natchez’ next tourism director and turn it over to the city’s Convention Promotion Commission.

Mayor Darryl Grennell had proposed letting the commission decide who to hire as he tries to reform the city’s tourism structure. It’s been rattled this year by infighting and confusion. Clashes emerged about who’s in charge and how city tourism funds are being managed.

Aldermen are scheduled to interview two applicants for the tourism director’s job on Saturday.

The Board of Aldermen in April ousted then-tourism director Kevin Kirby and the six-member Convention Promotion Commission. They bickered for months about what management authority Kirby had and what power the CPC can exert overseeing Natchez’ efforts to attract tourists and conventions. The board has since refilled the CPC with new appointees.

In advocating the Convention Promotion Commission pick the new director, Grennell cited a state law that specifies its Natchez tourism oversight duties. However, the board voted 4-1 to have aldermen decide who’ll fill the director’s job.
Aldermen Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Felicia Irving and Ben Davis voted to retain their power to appoint the city tourism director. Alderman Sarah Carter Smith was the lone dissenter. Alderman Dan Dillard was absent.

The CPC is specifically empowered by state law to decide how to spend local tourism tax revenues to lure more visitors and conventions to Natchez.

While aldermen will continue appointing the tourism director as they have in the past, Arceneaux-Mathis said, that person with the commission will be independent. They’re “perfectly capable (of promoting tourism) without any intrusion from us,” she said.

Smith expressed concerns that the board is violating state law. She noted Natchez receives state money to help operate its Visitors Reception Center, and she’s been told the city is in a “dangerous position of losing that funding” for not following the state law spelling out the Convention Promotion Commission’s powers.

The Board of Aldermen will allow CPC members to participate in interviewing the candidates Saturday. Their names have not been disclosed to the public, but Arceneaux-Mathis said one has dropped out of contention. That leaves two finalists to consider.

In other action Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen voted to rezone land on Canal Street to allow Regions to build its new bank. In a downsizing move, Regions is getting out of its much larger local main office on Pearl and Franklin streets.

The board also voted to seek a buyer for the old General Hospital on Oak Street. Once Natchez’ main hospital prior to 1960, the city-owned structure is dilapidated. Hopes are that a buyer will restore it for apartments or other uses.

The public was closed out of a lengthy segment of Tuesday’s meeting as the mayor and aldermen discussed litigation and personnel issues in the Natchez Fire Department. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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