Natchez aldermen ponder hiring tourism director, more police officers
from Staff Reports - NEWS
January 13, 2017 - ListenUpYall.com
By John Mott Coffey
NATCHEZ, Miss. – Mayor Darryl Grennell and city aldermen will meet Tuesday to discuss what to do about finding a tourism director after their choice declined the job last month.
Meanwhile, interim director Jennifer Ogden Combs agreed Friday to stay on as the search continues.
A candidate was tapped in December to be tourism director, but she backed out after being interviewed by the mayor and aldermen. Grennell was preparing to announce her hiring, but she decided to stay in her current job. The mayor has declined to publicly name the designated director.
The Board of Aldermen in April ousted then-tourism director Kevin Kirby and the six-member Natchez Convention Promotion Commission after they clashed for months about how the city’s tourism program was being managed. The CPC has since been refilled with new members. Combs has been interim tourism director while also serving as Natchez Tricentennial director.
City officials since summer have been actively seeking a permanent tourism director with an advertised salary of $75,000 to $100,000 a year. A pool of applicants was shrunk to two interviewed in December in a meeting closed to the public by the Board of Aldermen.
Grennell indicated Friday that the public could be closed out again in Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the tourism director’s position.
While the board voted Friday to retain Combs for the interim, she pointed to the importance of getting a permanent tourism director in place soon so Natchez tourism-promotion efforts aren’t stalled.
In other action Friday, the board delayed a decision on whether to hire three more police officers. It’s uncertain if the city has the money for them. Natchez Police Chief Danny White requested the addition for the 39-officer force he now has on the streets.
While Grennell said the city can afford additional officers, aldermen voted to delay a decision after City Clerk Melissa Hawk said it appears the city doesn’t have enough money.
Grennell said tax collections are exceeding expectations and more revenues for the city are forthcoming from Magnolia Bluffs Casino, which pays Natchez taxes and rent for sitting on city-owned land. However, aldermen expressed concerns that the funds aren’t stable enough for a long-term hiring of more police officers.
This comes as Natchez has experienced three murders in the past two weeks.