Editor’s note: The race to fill the remaining year of a Henderson Board of Commissioners seat offers both contrast and similarity. The candidates are Nick Whitt, 36, who is currently on the board, after being appointed to the position early in the year, and Dwight Williams, 66, a retired Army colonel. The board of commissioners (commonly called the Henderson City Commission) is a nonpartisan body, and the race is nonpartisan. Interesting, though, is that Whitt is the chair of the Henderson County Democratic Party while Williams is the chair of the Henderson County Republican Party. Both have said that this race isn’t about political affiliation and is more about what the successful candidate can do for the town. In that regard, both also agree that they want to see continued progress in Henderson. The main difference, they both said, may be how each pursues that progress. Finally, both are members of the Rotary Club.
See an article about Whitt today. An article about Williams was published online yesterday. Look for it at www.the-hendersonian.com.
Nick Whitt hopes for a second year on the City Commission to continue his part in Henderson’s momentum and to see through its current work—projects that include the Inner City Improvement Plan, efforts to increase police employment and the new athletic complex construction.
Whitt, who is serving a 1-year appointment on the board, says the athletic complex is a project that only comes around every so often. He is a proponent of making it as nice as possible for future generations, which stirs some—including his opponent, Dwight Williams—because of an increasing price tag.
The cost is now at $18.5 million, up from a $10.5 million base bid approved in 2022. Many of the complex’s amenities were left off the base bid so that they could be bid individually to save money, city officials have said.
According to Whitt, the complex will hold more than previous planned, like expanded parking, a playground, artificial turf on outfields and fields for other uses besides baseball.
“We’re going to get a lot more,” Whitt said.
He has said in the past that this is a generational project, and its costs are justifiable because ever since he can remember residents have been asking for better amenities “so people don’t move out of Henderson.”
The facility shows that the city cares about the community’s young people, both their athletic hopes and the character traits developed through team sports, he said.
In the Nov. 7 special election, Whitt faces off against Dwight Williams to claim the second year of the City Commission seat that Whitt was appointed to after the 2022 election.
In that race, Whitt ran fifth and Williams sixth. Another candidate, Jay Randolph, captured fourth place, which would have placed him on the board. But Randolph resigned before his term began after complaints were made that he wasn’t a city resident.
The board unanimously approved the appointment of Whitt, who finished six votes behind Randolph, to serve for a year until the winner of Nov. 7’s special election chooses who will serve the remaining year of the term.
In the 2022 election, Whitt captured 2,272 votes while Williams got 2,190.
Whitt also lists increasing the number of police officers as a priority. He said the backbone of a strong community is the ability to keep residents safe.
“You’ve got to invest in safety before you can invest in anything else,” he said.
He voted to approve a police lateral incentive and retention program that would pay up to $15,000 to an officer moving from a different department to HPD. It also allows for $3,000 incentive every three years that an officer stays with the department. He’s hopeful that conveys to police professionals that Henderson is a place where they can pursue a career and raise a family.
Whitt said he was fortunate to come onto the board on the back end of the positive work that the previous commissions had completed, such as the Jagoe Homes subdivision approval on Barret Boulevard, the coming distillery downtown and the addition of Pratt Industries.
Finally, he said there’s a lot of optimism about what I-69 will bring to Henderson, but there’s also a lot of uncertainty, too.
I-69 “provides us a very compelling argument for (recruiting other) companies,” Whitt said.
But I-69’s coming is also causing heartburn to business owners on the 41-strip, who don’t know what effect the new interstate will have. Whitt said he wants to work so that the strip doesn’t become a “kind of dead end.”
He said he’d like to use all the influence of the Board of Commissioners to keep both bridges open, which he hopes would allow for the continued success of businesses on the Henderson strip.