Lauderdale looking for new door to open

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 22, 2003

District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale makes rounds through his district.(Jenny Sevcik The Vicksburg Post)

[12/22/03]District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale’s bookshelf in his office is empty. Pretty soon all the plaques on the wall will be gone, along with his nameplate from the door.

Lauderdale, 56, has served on the county board for 16 years, more than a quarter of his life and longer than any other city or county official.

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He was elected president of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors, served on national boards and committees and chaired the local board for several one-year stints.

But he lost his re-election bid in November, meaning the four incumbents who were returned to the board from the other districts will see a new person in the post Lauderdale has held.

His tenure was not without controversy, Lauderdale said. A tough time came in 1990 when the prospect of casinos went on county ballots. Lauderdale publicly said the riverboats would help the residents of Warren County.

“I was the only elected official to attend a conference in Natchez to learn about what gaming can do for a community,” Lauderdale said. But in the first voting here, voters vetoed gambling and didn’t change their minds until a second vote a year later.

As a board member he was also involved in other controversial issues, such as the plans to expand a landfill off Jeff Davis Road, the future of the U.S. 80 Mississippi River bridge and how access would be provided to Kings Point Island.

It was the combination of tough issues that eventually took their toll on his support, he said.

After coming up 189 votes short in a four-way race in November’s election, the Warren County native will be out of his $37,343-a-year job at the end of the month.

He said he had a feeling during the campaign that something wasn’t right.

“I didn’t campaign like I should have this time,” he said. “And I underestimated my opponents.”

First-time office seeker Carl Flanders was the big news when Nov. 4 ballots were counted. The 33-year-old school teacher ran a door-to-door campaign and polled 40 percent of the votes to lead a four-candidate field.

Lauderdale’s wife and campaign manager, Ada Lauderdale, said she was ill during the campaign, and her husband paid lots of attention to her. Bill Lauderdale also had two rotator cuff surgeries this year. Ada Lauderdale said they didn’t campaign in full force like in the past.

“I honestly feel if we would have run our normal campaign we probably would have won,” she said.

District 5 Supervisor Richard George, who has been board president this year, said he’s known Lauderdale since they were in elementary school together. George said Lauderdale was someone he could count on to be honest and dependable to represent District 4’s interests.

“It’s hard to see a good man and especially your friend lose an election,” George said. “But that’s part of this business.”

Lauderdale talked about how much he is going to miss his job, but he also said he was excited about leaving, too.

“There’s the excitement of a new beginning,” Lauderdale said. “There’s the saying about one door closing and another door opening.”

Lauderdale wasn’t too specific on which new door might open for him.

“Right now I’m not going to rush into anything,” he said. “I’ve got a number of people helping me see what’s available.”

He said he’d like to get a job that will allow him to continue accruing retirement in the state system. Ada Lauderdale, owner of a State Farm insurance agency, said they have talked about his working with her.

“I could really use him in my business,” she said.

Bill Lauderdale said he’s not ruling out running for elective office again. He said he feels like his district has plenty of support for him.

“I’m very concerned about Vicksburg and Warren County,” Bill Lauderdale said. “I’m leaving my options open.”

District 4 resident Camille Morse, 366 Redbone Road, said she would welcome Lauderdale’s name on the ballot again.

“I would never vote against Billy,” she said.