Question 8: In February 1998

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2001

, a 2-1 vote by city officials directed the closure of Vicksburg Municipal Airport effective March 31 of that year. If, after taking office, the new city board is called on to vote again on closing Vicksburg Municipal, how will you vote? Why?

Beauman: The city, to the best of my knowledge, is still waiting for a higher court ruling as to Judge Vollor’s ruling. This matter would need to be taken care of first. There are things like the possibility of the main railroad yard being moved to the airport that could be a determining factor. As things stand today, I see reasons for both keeping it open and closing it. I would need to look at all issues involved on both sides in order to make an educated decision and would do so before voting. My main objective in this matter would be what would be best for the majority of the citizens of Vicksburg and its economic development.

Smith: I fully support the VTR. Why? Because it makes good business sense to free up over 200 acres of land in south Vicksburg to develop it for industry and business. Anyone who has studied this will realize that Louisiana provides more funds for the VTR than Mississippi.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

Question 9: What would you do that’s not being done now to improve the appearance of the City of Vicksburg?

Beauman: Daily, planned maintenance. Most of the time if you wait until it breaks to fix it, you spend more than you would if you maintained it. The obvious things are streets and structures that need work. However, if we had strict building codes as to types of structures and zoning codes that determine location that were properly enforced, this would be an easier task. The city needs to develop a theme for different areas (i.e. downtown, recreational areas, green belts, etc.) that would be adhered to totally.

Smith: I feel that we need more volunteerism in our city. People like Miss Annie Strong who has been mentioned in your paper, not only in articles but in letters to the editor as well. This is the kind of spirit we need all over the city. Another way to improve the appearance of Vicksburg is to stop the politics of divisiveness. The elected officials of Vicksburg should be leaders for all the people of Vicksburg. This in itself would instill more pride and civic commitment.

Question 10: In 2000, water, sewer and garbage collection rates were increased drastically to bring them more in line with the city’s actual costs for these services. These increases offset a multimillion-dollar supplement being paid from the general fund. Should consumers pay the actual costs of city utilities or should there be cost sharing, as was practiced previously, to limit bills of those less able to pay?

Beauman: I feel that a person should pay for what they use. However, if written guidelines were established prior to an emergency and funding set to pay for same, I think we could handle both items. There should be limits set as to how much could be covered, a time frame for payment and a limit as to how much could accumulate in this emergency fund.

Smith: The previous practice of cost sharing worked well for the city and its residents. However if we return to such a system, the city will have to learn to tighten its belt and spend the taxpayers’ money wisely. After all, our first priority should be our citizens and not fishing tournaments.

Question 11: Vicksburg has about 600 employees and a $15.8 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?

Beauman: I feel that the number of city employees could and should be cut 20 percent to 25 percent. Most of these cuts would be white-collar jobs that have been established by administrations for their friends. I have personally seen the city’s labor force cut and administrative positions added. This is not the way to control payroll costs. By effective management from department heads and less interference from the administration, most of this would take care of itself. In order to draw a paycheck, you should first have a job to do and then do the job. I feel the city’s labor force is underpaid in most areas, making it difficult to keep good people. I also think there are positions not needed and are overpaid.

Smith: With a population right around 27,000 citizens, one out of every 45 of Vicksburg’s residents works for the city. Monroe, La., has a population of about 55,000 yet only employs 400 city workers. With only 27,000 residents, I feel that somebody has failed to realize that we are a town and not a city. Memphis is a city. New Orleans is a city. Vicksburg is still a town with a big-city budget. Sometimes it helps to realize that government is not the solution. Government can sometimes be the problem.

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

Beauman: I feel this is a great amenity for Vicksburg and that Norman Ford had it on the right track. It remains to be seen as to how a management company will do. We will see. I know that if I was visiting and was asked what I would change, the answer would be simple: Clean up the area around it and get a more direct scenic route to it. This is the only way I can see the Vicksburg Convention Center being able to pay its way.

Smith: The Vicksburg Convention Center has been a hot topic of debate for some time. The city’s recent move of turning over the management of the Center over to Compass Facility Management was a step in the right direction. After all, the city is not in the business to book conventions. Let professionals do that. Maybe now the $13 million facility can become cost effective.

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

Beauman: Without a doubt, the people of Vicksburg and Warren County are the most important asset. I plan to use the wisdom and knowledge of business people to make business decisions. I have never been afraid or embarrassed to ask for help when I simply do not know the answer. Whether it is growing grass or making business decisions, there are people that can and will help. I will take advantage of the knowledge available from our citizens.

Smith: Vicksburg’s greatest asset is in the name, “Vicksburg.” School children all over the world have studied about the Battle of Vicksburg. Over 1 million visitors each year go through the National Military Park. Yet only a fraction of these visitors come to downtown Vicksburg. At the beginning of our tourist season the city fails to renew the lease for the only tour boat company in our town. How does this promote our greatest asset? It doesn’t. We need to re-evaluate what we have here: our history, our significance to the Mississippi River and our significance to the rest of our nation. I think when we put our minds to it, we might be quite surprised with the answers.