Candidates introduced themselves and their platforms then responded to questions that focused on Jackson roads, crime and economic development.
The panel included a state senator, a city councilman, a county tax collector, a former mayor and a former police chief. All candidates said they think Jackson has been mishandled in recent years and has experienced bad leadership.
Jackson Mayor Frank Melton, who has said he intends to run for re-election, did not attend the forum, and no one directly mentioned him, even while criticizing the current administration.
Councilman Marshand Crisler, who has represented Jackson’s Ward 6 since 2001, said he is running for mayor because he wants to move from a position of “influence” on the council to a position of “authority.”
“We have a strong mayor, weak council system,” he said. “It’s been quite frustrating over the last eight years.”
State Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said he has spent his time in the Legislature working to benefit Jackson but believes he will better serve the city on the mayoral level. “I love this city, and I don’t want to see it fail,” he said.
Some spoke generally about the changes that Jackson needs.
“The city is going to have to begin to think outside the box,” said David Archie, a community activist and radio host.
More specific proposals included calls for bringing back the crime-prevention unit.
Former Jackson Police Chief Robert Johnson said residents need to feel a connection to law enforcement. “There’s no relationship,” he said.
Hinds County Tax Collector Eddie Fair said he would hire more police and offer raises.
To spur economic development, some candidates said they think the focus should first be on housing.
“Business follows residential,” Horhn said. “We have too many houses boarded up and dilapidation everywhere.”
Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. said he thinks the city would benefit by offering grants to small businesses to improve their appearances and encourage the hiring of Jackson residents.