Dillamar to challenge Young again in North Ward race

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2000

Store owner Rodney Dillamar has announced plans to again challenge North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young for her seat on the city board, further defining battle lines for Vicksburg’s spring political contests.

Although the city elections won’t take center stage until after the presidential race is decided in November, candidates are already positioning, some behind the scenes and others more aggressively.

Dillamar first challenged Young four years ago, when she was seeking a second term. She was carried back into office in a landslide, taking 85 percent of the 5,755 votes cast.

“We have to get to a point where people feel like the city is on their side,” said Dillamar, who questions rising utility rates in an era of bank accounts flush with casino cash. “People aren’t seeing where the money is going, or where it’s being spent.”

He added that a poor relationship among police officers, officials at the city utilities and the public have contributed to a situation where many people see the city as an enemy, not a friend.

Young, who has promised to defend her seat in June, said she wants a chance to finish the projects she started in her first two terms, including helping organize after-school programs for children, street-paving projects and efforts to improve the quality of housing available for the poor and elderly.

“I think my record shows that I work for the betterment of the whole community, not just part of the community,” she said.

As for how casino taxes are being spent, Young pointed to the Vicksburg Convention Center, water wells and street-paving projects.

“People can’t appreciate what they don’t see,” she said. “But they miss it when it’s not there, like during the water rationing period this summer.”

Young said she is particularly proud of her work for the city’s youth, and is glad to see a Jackson Street youth center about to be built.

Dillamar said he’s done his own work with young people in trying to clean up the neighborhood around his store at South and First North streets.

“My whole reason for running boils down to nine years on this corner,” Dillamar said from behind the counter of the South Street Shopette.

During that time, he started a club for local youths and chased drug dealers off neighborhood corners, he said. Police have credited him for a decrease in crime in the area.

While Dillamar argued that more facilities to help Vicksburg’s youths are desperately needed, he questioned the timing of movement on the Jackson Street youth center.

That project was stuck in neutral for nearly a decade due to budget constraints and bidding problems before being contracted out late last month just in time for the elections, Dillamar noted.

“The youth of this city have been promised the world for the past 10 years,” he said. “The children that were 8 then are now 18.”

Young said that she has worked diligently to make the center a reality.

“Some people might not understand that it takes more than a year to get some things done,” she said.

No other candidates have yet announced publicly that they plan to run in the North Ward.

In the South Ward, Vickie Bailey, head of the Kings Community Center, has announced plans to run again for the seat she sought in 1997.

Bailey took 30 percent of the vote, coming in behind current South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb, who has said he will not run again.

Another candidate in the 1997 race, Travis Wayne Vance, has indicated that he might make another run at the seat, although he hasn’t made a statement of his intentions, and could not be reached for comment.

Vance took 28 percent of the vote in 1997.

Pamela Johnson, a hair stylist who once trimmed Oprah’s name into her locks for a television commercial, said in a letter to the editor that she was considering running for the seat.

Contacted Wednesday, she said she would be kicking off her campaign in earnest after Nov. 1.