Jackson voters are fortunate to have two highly capable Democratic candidates for mayor in incumbent Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. and former television executive Frank Melton.
Both have distinguished careers and records of community service. Both are competent managers. Both love the city of Jackson.
Johnson has been a competent mayor with several successes under his belt, including upgrading basic infrastructure, getting planning on track and bringing basic management principles to City Hall. He has been supportive of downtown development and helped bring about approval of a much-needed convention center.
Melton has been successful throughout his business career as CEO of WLBT-Channel 3 and other business endeavors. His strength of personality has made him a popular community leader. His volunteerism in helping troubled kids has been a lifetime commitment.
But there could not be two more different individuals when it comes to style, leadership abilities and priorities. The question is: What kind of leadership is best for Jackson?
We believe Frank Melton offers the type of dynamic leadership Jackson needs to help it move ahead and thrive at this point in the city’s history.
While Johnson is excellent at planning and handling the mundane details of municipal government, he has not tended to the big picture. And, tending to the big picture means aggressively attacking Jackson’s No. 1 issue – crime.
While the mayor is correct in his assertions that crime has dropped statistically (as it has nationwide) and that there are more police on the streets, crime still is the major hindrance to economic development and quality of life and the major contributor to suburban flight. Whether hard numbers or perceptions, the effect is the same. Questions about public safety undermine Jackson’s best efforts.
Johnson has a fine five-point crime plan, but a lethargic police leadership that does not instill confidence.
Melton has worked on the crime problem, especially drug-related crime, for more than a decade, cajoling, criticizing officials, advocating aggressive change and working with kids on the streets. While he has been criticized for not making more arrests as director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, at least the people of Mississippi knew the agency was aggressively taking action. The same can’t be said of Jackson’s law enforcement leadership.
Jackson needs a mayor who will make crime-fighting a priority, will not tolerate crime in any form and will instill public confidence – that the city’s law enforcement officials are doing all they possibly can to keep the public safe.
There is renewed interest for investment and economic development in Jackson. The city needs someone who is willing to communicate and work with the business community, and be a cheerleader for growth and development. This pent-up demand for development awaits only a hint of support and encouragement from the city’s leadership.
This newspaper endorsed Mayor Johnson four years ago, but in doing so pointed out that he must become more proactive, more decisive and reach out to new constituencies. He has not done that. His second term has been lackluster with more lost opportunities than successes.
This newspaper has not always agreed with Melton. He tends to shoot from the hip and, at times, relies too heavily on the force of his personality. But no one can doubt his motivations, commitment and dogged work ethic.
Melton exudes action and this city needs action. Jackson needs to dash ahead and not continue to plod. There may be questions or disagreements about what Melton may do, but at least we know he will do something.
Frank Melton offers strong, dynamic, decisive leadership. We recommend Frank Melton in the Democratic Primary for Jackson mayor.