Question 11: Vicksburg has about 600 employees and a $15

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2001

.8 million payroll, putting the cost per employee at about $26,300. Have you compared these numbers with other American municipalities about the same size? Do you have an idea of how many people should be on the city payroll? Are you satisfied with compensation levels? Too high? Too low?

Rawlings: I have made no comparisons, but I believe that there should be an assessment of employees per department based on work planned for the day. For this reason it is important to crosstrain employees where it is feasible to do so. I also think it may be a little excessive to have three assistants; therefore, the number of unnecessary employees should be minimized. I would like to see a time and motion study conducted by a professional firm to form a basis for setting employee pay. I am for minimizing unnecessary costs; however, I believe that employees should be paid according to their worth, qualifications and job description.

Walker: The City of Vicksburg currently employees 539 people, which is below the July 1997 number. We compare favorably with other cities, especially when you consider the variety of services we provide and the fact that we also provide natural gas services, and have a building maintenance department and a concrete crew that saves us hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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I would like to see increases in some areas. We raised the minimum starting hourly salary from $5.15 to $6.25 during this term. I want to see that increased to $8. Also, I am committed to a starting minimum salary of $30,000 for policemen, firefighters and EMTs.

Question 12: Please summarize your views about the Vicksburg Convention Center, its use, management and funding.

Rawlings: Under the circumstances, the city may have had no other alternative than to go to an outside source to manage the convention center. However, when the management company is being paid just over $8,000 per month, they should be closely scrutinized, and the city should have some contract in place that indicates what percentage of each event Vicksburg will be collecting. I think negotiated funding should be kept at a minimal expense to the city, but I would expect the management company to be shrewd enough to do the job that they were hired to do. We should be able to entertain many more events such as trade shows, concerts, dog shows, auctions, pageants and professional fights on a regular basis.

Walker: The Vicksburg Convention Center is a potentially great asset to Vicksburg and will do much to attract meetings and tourists, if properly managed and promoted. The contract with Compass Facility Management Inc., which I supported, will provide professional management to accomplish what we need to make it an attraction worthy of the investment made in it.

With professional management that will have greater flexibility, latitude, and incentives to compete for meetings and conventions, as well as use by local groups, there should be more activities and a greater variety of them. Over time, this will reduce the amount of money the city will have to invest in the convention center.

There is still a need for a hotel. However, with professional management, the success of the Main Street Program, the Downtown Task Force and others, I feel we are on our way to success.

Question 13. What do you consider Vicksburg’s most important asset? What plans do you have to use or support this asset more effectively?

Rawlings: Tourism is our most prized asset. If Vicksburg is properly marketed, managed and advertised, our city could be the tourist center that our business community hopes for. Tourists come to our city for various reasons, including our great history, gift shops, casinos and our family-friendly atmosphere. We should give tourism the support which is it due so Vicksburg can continue to grow and prosper. I would like to see things that could boost recreation, like a zoo and theme park, and a trolley system for shopping and tours. I think that negotiating the reopening of the tour boat with Mr. Schaeffer would definitely be a plus to our community, and I am for creating a water boat museum. Supporting these recreations can only serve to help tourism in the city.

Walker: Vicksburg’s most important asset is her people. However, this asset has been manipulated into a negative force instead of a positive force one that focuses on seeking division rather than healing. My plan, that is already in motion, is to have an official Vicksburg Commission on Race and Human Relations, whose charge will be to explore and implement actions that will create an environment that fosters respect and cooperation among various factions and progress for all.

Question 14. Who are your personal heroes in public life? Why?

Rawlings: Despite all of the harsh criticism he has endured, I would have to say President Clinton. Though morality is high on my standards of living list, I believe that he was still a great success because he led our country into greatest financial prosperity we have ever known. He was fair and he gave everyone an equal opportunity. This is the type of administration I would like to lead, one of fairness and prosperity to all of Vicksburg, regardless of race, religion, social class or party affiliation.

Walker: On a very personal level, my mother, father and wife are my personal heroes. However, in public life, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Fred L. Banks Jr. and University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat are two of my public heroes. I admire and respect them for their honesty, integrity, courage and commitment to do the right thing.

Question 15: Looking back four years from now, what do you hope to be able to say that you and your fellow city board members accomplished?

Rawlings: After four years, I hope to be able to reflect on many positive changes and accomplishments. I would like to have helped to bring the living conditions of the Kings community up to standards, to have opened police precincts in the North and South wards, to have attracted giants in the industry to Vicksburg, such as Nissan, to have lowered taxes, to have attracted more diverse businesses, and to have seen completion of Carr Central High School as a retirement home. I would also like to have brought a public zoo to Vicksburg, to have improved on city and county joint work relations, to have attracted a full-service truck stop, to have seen a significant decrease in crime, to have improved on race relations in our city, and finally, to be able sincerely say to myself, job well-done.

Walker: Obviously, I want to be able to say that I served well, that I kept my focus on the big picture, and that my fellow elected officials and I were good stewards of the public trust and contributed to making Vicksburg an even better place to live, work and raise a family. And that these things, especially the latter, were realized because progress was made in the area of human relations and interactions due to the example and actions of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the community at large.