Dr. Mary Frances Dear-Moton, president/CEO of Family and Youth Opportunities Division Inc., wanted to take her summer job readiness program students for ages 15 and 16 on a field trip this year.
The funds were unavailable, so Moton decided to take everyone to Clarksdale city hall and meet elected officials Thursday morning.
Fair’s Limousine Service allowed the students to ride for free to city hall and Our Grandma’s House of Pancakes provided a free lunch.
When the program arrived at city hall, mayor Chuck Espy was the only elected official to participate and went over the political process with the children.
There were mock elections for each position, beginning with three children running for mayor.
Vincent Jones was elected after each candidate gave a campaign speech.
“I think I will be a good mayor because I will fix the potholes in the road and I will make Clarksdale a better place,” he said.
Espy swore in each person elected to a position and appointed department heads.
Developer Dwan “Dee” Brown explained the sports complex and convention center in the works for the city and the kids went through the process of approving the project as if they served on the Board of Mayor and Commissioners.
Espy also told the children Clarksdale, Grenada and Vicksburg are the only three cities in Mississippi where the mayor has a vote. He said, in other cities, the mayor is just a CEO who reports to the city council.
“I wanted them to see something in leadership,” Dear-Moton said.
“I wanted them to see our leaders in this community. I think it was great. We didn’t have it planned like this, but the mayor came in. He was so creative in doing this. The participants, they were so excited. He went through the process. All the people don’t know the process.”
Kids had the opportunity to ask questions and one wanted to know what inspired Espy to get into politics.
Espy was a state representative for 16 years and his father, Henry, was Clarksdale’s first black mayor. Henry and Chuck are the first father and son who have both served as mayor in the city.
Chuck did not originally plan to go into politics. He said when Henry and his uncle, Mike, were going through a federal trial where the charges were eventually thrown out, his perspective changed. Mike Espy has served in the U.S. House of Representatives and as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under former President Bill Clinton and is a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
“These big federal prosecutors had a lot of money and they all came out of D.C.,” Chuck Espy said. “They were in Oxford, Miss., trying to put my dad and my uncle in jail. Guess what I found out? I was in the bathroom and I heard one of the prosecutors talking about my family. Guess what they were saying? ‘I could care less if they were guilty or innocent.’
“After this was over, they were going to Beale Street and having a party. While my family was hurting and suffering during that time, they were in the bathroom laughing about a party they were going to. They didn’t care if they were guilty or innocent. They were just trying to destroy someone’s good name.”