City election lineup beginning to take shape

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 21, 2000

Vicksburg’s alderman races are beginning to take shape almost a year before the 2001 elections as potential candidates quietly circulate their names and gauge the response.

Incumbent North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, who is serving her second term, said she is not yet 100 percent sure whether she will seek re-election in May.

“I’m praying about it at this time,” Young said.

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Young, 40, a real estate agent and former nurse, was first elected in 1993, defeating 16-year incumbent Melvin Redmond. She is Vicksburg’s first female elected official and has been a vocal advocate for sewer, street paving and other improvements in North Vicksburg. Young has stirred controversy for her support of an oft-criticized youth center project on Jackson Street.

So far, the only name put forward as a possible challenger for Young is Vicksburg Police Detective Randy Naylor, 45.

The 12-year veteran of the Vicksburg Police Department said today he is exploring his options.

If Naylor decides to run, he may be forced to resign from his police department post by civil service law.

Pat McNamara Jr., a Vicksburg narcotics officer, dropped out of the South Ward race in 1993 after learning that he might be forced to resign in order to run.

However, Deputy Chief Jack Dowe, then a sergeant, took a leave of absence for his unsuccessful South Ward run in 1989, and returned at full rank.

The dividing lines between Young’s ward and South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb’s, who has announced he will not seek a second term, runs along Fairground Street, Bowmar Avenue and Mission 66. Vicksburg aldermen are paid about $45,491 a year.

The 31-year-old Habeeb, who has not endorsed anyone for the position he has held for four years, has said he plans to continue his career as a civil servant by looking for an administrative job at a government agency at the federal or state level.

Habeeb was a lawyer in private practice before winning the South Ward seat in 1997.

Robert Amborn, owner of United Cleaners, said he is considering running for the South Ward position despite saying earlier he may run for mayor.

“As of this moment, I’m still considering the possibility of running for a political office, but in what capacity, I’m not sure,” said Amborn, 47. “One thing I know for sure is that Vicksburg needs a change in City Hall.”

Also positioning himself for another run in South Ward is Vicksburg businessman Travis Wayne Vance, 53.

Vance polled third against Habeeb in 1997, taking 28 percent of the vote. He was edged out of second by Vickie Bailey, the city’s assistant director of youth services, who got 30 percent, while Habeeb captured 42 percent.

“A lot of people have called me,” Vance said. “My response to them has been that I’m praying about it, and talking to family and friends about it.”

Vance said someone needs to be a voice of fiscal responsibility on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“A great deal of money is coming into our community, and our leaders are not spending that money wisely,” he said.

Four other people have expressed an interest in running for mayor.

Vicksburg developer Laurence Leyens, 36, fitness instructor and community activist Eric Rawlings, 38, and former Mayor Joe Loviza, 60, have all expressed an interest in challenging Mayor Robert Walker, 56, who has said he may run for what would be a third full term.

Loviza has begun distributing bumper stickers and campaign literature for the post that pays about $56,531 a year.

Walker was mayor from 1988 to 1993 before being defeated by Loviza. He took the seat back in 1997. He has previously served as a Warren County supervisor and a field officer for the state NAACP.

Candidates have until March 2, 2001, to qualify for the races. The party primaries will be May 1, and the general election, June 5.

Mayor and aldermen serve four-year terms.