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Mayor must take on responsibility of CEO

December 4th, 2009

Before anyone leaps to their keyboard to write that they have read this column before, let me assure you this will be the second column I have written about moderating a mayoral debate in Indianola.
In the Democratic primaries, longtime Indianola businessman Steve Rosenthal routed his opponents with 62 percent of the vote, leaving him to battle upstart independent Mario Strong in the general election.
As I wrote previously, the problems in Indianola are not unusual. Unemployment is high. Crime is up. The tax base is short. Public schools are failing and the town seems to be at a crossroads.
Sound familiar?
That could be Natchez or West Point or Booneville or Meridian or Greenville or Corinth or Pascagoula.
The question is what can a new mayor do about it?
Well, a lot and not so much.
I know this will come as a surprise to a lot of folks, but many Americans distrust the government.
So, while Rosenthal has been running a campaign as the change agent, he will immediately be the guy running the show and he will be distrusted.
That is why it is so important to be transparent as a government official.
Tell the truth. Be up front. Handle public money in a responsible manner.
From that standpoint, Rosenthal, who is expected to win, can make a lot of difference in a short amount of time.
But what about jobs?
In this economy, creating new jobs is going to be a struggle.
Scott Ross in West Point ran a campaign promising more and better jobs.
Five years later, Clay County has one of the highest unemployment rates in all of Mississippi.
Indianola, like most small towns in Mississippi, has to make due with what it already has.
The B.B. King Museum is at the heart of that. Rosenthal must help create a culture that welcomes visitors to Indianola and Sunflower County.
Europeans love the blues, and with the U.S. dollar trading lower and lower against the Euro, now is the time to bring more and more tourists to town.
Using a national negative can be a positive.
Already, Europeans love to come to Mississippi to visit the historical blues sites of the Magnolia State.
In fact, it was just a couple of weeks ago that Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin made an appearance at the unveiling of a blues marker in Tutwiler.
Marketing the blues is not the end all be all, but in small towns like Indianola, it has to be taken advantage of.
The new mayor of Indianola has a challenge ahead of him. As the CEO of the city, Rosenthal or Strong have to be prepared to be transparant, progressive and determined.
Here’s hoping the new mayor of Indianola can be a model for what other small town Mississippi mayors should be.

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