Former councilman urges citizens to embrace change

Although four-term Councilman Henry Naylor may not have gotten the election results he had wanted, he still believes all Hattiesburg residents have a reason to celebrate the inauguration of a new mayor and City Council.

Naylor, an independent who worked for the city for 21 years – including 16 as Ward 5 Councilman – lost in the General Election to Democrat Nicholas Brown 1,036-703 in votes, 60-40 in percentage. However, Naylor said citizens should stand behind the new city government.

“I am not in a position to say what is next, but I feel in a celebratory-type mood, if you want to know the truth about it,” he said earlier this week. “Even though I didn’t get the results that I wanted, I think that the election gave all of us to a certain degree a reason to celebrate because people came out and voted for something. In fact, I think that had a lot to do with change. I am still looking forward, no matter where I am. I think there are a lot of reasons that we should celebrate in Hattiesburg. People went out, voted for change and they got it. Obviously, not everybody wanted what happened. But the majority got that and we need to embrace that.”

Naylor said he is still looking at his options for the future after the election June 6.

“Right now, being that the election was a short while ago, we still have some transitioning that’s going on, making sure everybody feels comfortable with it,” he said. “We are trying to make sure everyone knows what is going on and making yourself available. After that is over, I am going to start focusing on what else now I can do.”

Naylor started working for the City of Hattiesburg in 1988 when City Planner Jim Borsig, who is now the president of Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, hired him.

“Jim Borsig was highly noted in planning for our city and has since gone on to do other things,” he said. “He brought me on to start the Neighborhood Development program with the Department of Planning and Development with the city. The purpose was to address the issues and concerns having to do with each neighborhood in the City of Hattiesburg. The goal was to make Hattiesburg more noticed around the nation by these kinds of programs, getting citizens’ participating and involved the city.”

Naylor said the neighborhoods were becoming separated from each other at that time.

“In the 1980s, there was the acronym ‘NIMBY’ – ‘Not in My Backyard,’” he said. “That was what the City of Hattiesburg took on and it was going on all across the country. That was during the time that Hattiesburg was receiving the honor as ‘All-American City.’”

Safety was one goal of the neighborhood program, Naylor said.

“We mainly looked at particular areas that we were trying to focus on,” he said. “Obviously, one was the protection of all of our citizens, which included public safety and working with the Police Department on crime programs. We wanted to make sure that we did all of the things that would keep our people safe and our city safe.”

Naylor said his work in the neighborhoods and improving the housing in Ward 5 helped him in becoming a councilman.

“Those are the kinds of things that led to my being elected because the people knew what I had been doing as a city employee,” he said. “That concept of neighborhood development was what we were able to articulate and get to the people on the ground as well as the administration. The time was perfect and we were able to do a lot of great things.”

His work to improve housing in the area is one of Naylor’s accomplishments.

“One of the things that I have always sort of felt better about than anything else has had to do with housing and housing development,” he said. “It was one of the things that was needed and it was not present. We were able to take advantage of housing in some areas that needed to be addressed. We spent millions of dollars on drainage, water and sewage improvements. We focused more attention on our recreation and the performing arts, where we coordinated activities with our university and they are going into the public schools, exposing the students to the art and teaching them violin and other aspects of the arts. The students just had some tremendous things done for them because of that.”

Naylor said he was glad that he could make a contribution to Ward 5 during his years as councilman.

“I am absolutely proud that I was able to represent Ward 5, because there were so many people who have gone on before me that were so instrumental in laying some of the groundwork,” he said. “You know so many people that you want to come up and not do anything that would take away, but would enhance or add to what others have done. When I talk about housing and the other things that were needed in the community, I like to think that I have only done as a representative of my ward things that would add to some of the things that I knew these people did or wanted to do.”

Naylor said he was able to guide some projects to completion because of his tenure on the City Council.

“Because I served 16 years on the City Council, I was able to follow a lot of the programs through,” he said. “Sixteen years gives a lot more time to not only implement, but to see those things are resolved just the way you want them to end, especially the economic development projects.”

Hattiesburg will continue to welcome businesses to the Hub City, Naylor said.

“We have always been a business-friendly city and I believe the community will remain that way regardless of who is in office,” he said. “That takes care of a large scale of our people who are in need of employment and the things to sustain them. I like to think that regardless of who is in the position of the City Council or mayor, they are going to have to be business-friendly. We have great people here who want to work and we’ve got great opportunities here. I think we are going to always have that.”

Naylor said he felt blessed that he was able to contribute to the city during his time in city government.

“I appreciate the opportunities to serve the City of Hattiesburg and I am very grateful,” he said. “Everything I do from now on should reflect that.”