Arnold re-elected as mayor in Port Gibson

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2003

[12/3/03]PORT GIBSON Incumbent Amelda Arnold won a second four-year term for mayor Tuesday, beating her closest opponent by more than a two-to-one margin.

Arnold, 50, a Democrat, received 502 votes, while independent James Beesley, 81, former mayor and a bank consultant, had 247. Independent Robert “Bob” H. Tinsley received 37 votes.

As vote numbers heavily favoring Arnold were called out in City Hall, her supporters began cheering and congratulating her.

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“I wanted to win by better than that,” Arnold said between hugs from supporters. “But I’d have been happy to win by one vote.”

In her second term, Arnold said she hopes to bring more jobs to the area and strengthen law enforcement. Beesley, who did not seek re-election four years ago, campaigned on themes of lost jobs in the area and failure by the city to redistrict as required by state and federal constitutions.

Port Gibson, about 25 miles south of Vicksburg, has about 1,800 residents. Unemployment is high in the community where the U.S. census says a third of the people live below the poverty level.

Port Gibson High School social studies teacher Willie Smith said electing a black mayor was important for the majority black town. Arnold is black, and both of her opponents are white.

“It’s not that we’re racist people,” Smith said, “we just took a stand for our own.”

Beesley, who served as mayor for 17 years before Arnold was elected, agreed that race played a large factor in the mayor’s race.

“It’s just a black-and-white issue,” Beesley said in a phone interview from his house. “It turned out to be a completely racist issue.”

Sitting at a table at Arnold’s victory party, Tamika Howard said she voted for Arnold because she thought she was “the most qualified, and she did good things for the city.”

Arnold said race wasn’t a factor in the election. She said she knew both whites and blacks who voted for her.

In the Democratic primary, Arnold defeated Mac Drake, who is white, and Kenneth Ross, who is black.

In the only other contested city race, Democrat Leslie R. Case, 40, owner of a cleaning business, easily defeated independent Dalton Williams, 56, owner of Williams Computing, with 63 votes to 23 for Ward 5 alderman. No incumbent was in the race.

The Rev. Eddie Walls, 75, alderman of Ward 1; Kenneth Ray Davis, 41, of Ward 3; Vera Johnson, 55, of Ward 2; the Rev. Michael A. White, 53, of Ward 6; and Thomas Russum, 81, of Ward 4 were all re-elected without opposition.

All elected positions in the city are for four-year terms. The mayor is paid $30,000 a year. Each of the six aldermen is paid $7,200.