In late September, one day after he revealed he would resign his post due to a terminal cancer diagnosis, former Greenville mayor Chuck Jordan called his longtime friend, John Cox, and asked him to run to replace him.
Cox, an attorney who’s practiced in Greenville for almost 40 years, told Jordan he’d have to clear it with his wife. That promised to be no easy task, since she had told him in 1990 that he was never allowed to enter politics again after Cox had lost a county judge’s race.
“So I had to ask her about five different ways if I could do this,” Cox said Wednesday afternoon.
She relented, Cox entered the race and on Monday was elected to fill the rest of Jordan’s term. He got 57 percent of the vote in a five-person race.
Cox was sworn in Wednesday morning. In a phone interview a few hours afterward, he said he plans to continue implementation of the five-point plan Jordan set in motion late last year. It includes crime reduction, job creation, education accountability, infrastructure improvements and general clean-up.
“When you’ve got something that works, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Cox said. “(Jordan’s) vision and his plan were excellent. Chuck took a lot of time developing that, so I’ve adopted it. Let’s just call it a quality-of-life plan. That’s what has to happen in any community to be successful. To the outside world, to tourists, to businesses, if your quality of life isn’t where it needs to be, you have a problem.”
Cox said he realizes he’s taking the job under less-than-ideal circumstances. Jordan’s announcement last month that he had pancreatic cancer his doctors expected would likely kill him within months blindsided all but those closest to him. Cox was among those who never saw it coming, and didn’t initially know what to tell Jordan when he asked him to run “because I hadn’t even gotten over the emotion of a friend that I’d had for 40 years being dealt a situation like that.”
That conflict resolved, Cox admitted he has a lot of learning to do in his first 100 days in office. Part of that will be establishing a relationship with Greenville’s six city council members, and familiarizing himself with city departments and their personnel. Getting up to speed on the budget and budgeting process is another major agenda item, Cox said.
There are recent successes to build on. Cox listed as an example the first ever Delta Hot Tamale Festival, held Oct. 20. The festival got its name from Jordan, who, in one of his last acts as mayor, declared Greenville the “Hot Tamale Capital of the World.” The distinction is due in no small part to the tamales at Doe’s Eat Place, a restaurant also famous for its steak that is an icon of the Mississippi Delta.
“That was just over the top,” Cox said of the moniker and the festival. “Chuck’s vision is going to affect Greenville for a long time. His shoes are too big for me to fill. I just hope I can grow into them.”