In an election year when politics dominated headlines, perhaps Chuck Jordan’s sweeping victory in the Greenville mayoral race topped them all.
In a surprising landslide victory, banker-turned-politician Jordan took more than 64 percent of the vote to become Greenville’s next mayor.
Not only was this his first political campaign, Jordan, a white, took 40 percent of the black vote. Running as an independent, Jordan pulled 3,890 votes to easily defeat Democrat Carl McGee, an eight-year city councilman and vice mayor, who drew only 2,168 votes.
The men were running to replace Heather McTeer, the two-term mayor who did not seek re-election. McTeer plans to run for Mississippi’s 2nd District congressional seat next year.
Both McGee and McTeer are African American.
“It’s clearly a mandate for change,” said Jordan, 65. “The people in Greenville have spoken and said they want to go in a new direction.”
Jordan knew in order to win, the whole community had to support him. It could not be just one section of the community. Jordan believed he could earn 10-15 percent African American support, but many in the white community had doubts. He said early in his campaign he had people saying “bless you for running,” implying they saw little hope of a Jordan victory.
But, Jordan said as the campaign progressed, he realized he had more than just a shot at becoming the mayor of the largest city in the Mississippi Delta.
“My opponent constantly told voters, ‘Give me more time to implement the policies I’ve helped put in place,’” said Jordan, who added that he knocked thousands of doors and spoke to hundreds of groups, including approximately 40 churches, during the campaign. “Obviously, the folks in Greenville said they want something different.”
Jordan ran on a “Five Point Plan to Fix Greenville.” The planks were crime reduction, job creation, education accountability, infrastructure improvements and clean up.
Jordan has promised to convene a crime task force within 30 days of taking office (Jan. 3). Jordan criticized prior budget cuts to the Greenville Police Department and the lack of technology such as laptops in patrol cars.
“We have had churches stop offering Sunday and Wednesday night services because people are afraid to be out at night,” he said.
On the jobs front, Jordan is proposing the city offer a five-year tax abatement to local businesses to spur investment, a city-wide internship program with the aim of bringing the city’s college students back home to work and a state-backed Delta Opportunity Zone, similar to the post-Hurricane Katrina Gulf Opportunity Zone, to offer incentives to businesses looking to locate in the Delta.
Jordan will also lobby for the Mississippi Development Authority to set up a satellite office in the Greenville area. He added that Delta communities too often compete for the same project, frustrating prospects that decide to go elsewhere. He pointed to Eurocopter, which Jordan said was interested in the Delta but ended up across the state at Columbus.
One of Jordan’s principal clean-up projects is returning blighted properties to the tax rolls. According to Jordan, nearly 1,000 residences in Greenville are owned by the state due to unpaid taxes. Jordan said he would ask the state to deed these properties over to the city and back on the tax rolls.
Jordan said he has not run the numbers, but estimated that the city could be losing about $200,000 in taxes annually on these state-owned properties.
Jordan is proposing radical changes in the city’s public schools that have a drop out rate of approximately 33 percent. Among the points of his plan, Jordan proposes three options for the city’s public school children. For students who are discipline problems, he proposes they all be sent to the alternative school, Darling Achievement Center. This would create a more effective learning environment for those students who have no behavioral problems and are making good grades, Jordan said.
For those students who are not discipline problems but may not be four-year college candidates — what he called the “middle group” — Jordan is pushing for a “beefed up” vo-tech program so those students can learn a trade.
In the area of infrastructure, Jordan has promised more funding for streets and sewers and a more responsive city hall.
All of these points are aimed at Jordan’s primary goal — to stop Greenville’s population loss.
“People have not left Greenville. Greenville has left them,” Jordan said flatly.
It is an ambitious agenda for a first-time politician. A native of Yazoo City, Jordan originally leaned toward a legal career, earning a B.A. (pre-law) from Mississippi State.
However, Jordan soon married, and family responsibilities brought a career move to banking. Jordan began his banking career in Greenville, relocated to Columbus before returning to Greenville and Planters Bank, where he retired as president, closing a 30-plus-year career.
A rookie politician with an ambitious agenda, Jordan knows he will be under scrutiny as he attempts to implement his plans. He said he welcomes the scrutiny.
“Hold my feet to the fire,” Jordan said. “Come to Greenville in six months and see the progress we’ve made. I welcome it.”