Leyens forming transition teams, meeting bosses

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2001

[06/13/01] Work has begun on forming transition teams to help him learn what is happening in city government and what needs to be done, said Laurence Leyens, Vicksburg’s mayor-elect.

The Vicksburg native, who returned after several years as an insurance executive in California, won the city’s top administrative post in the 2001 city elections last week. He will be joined in taking the oath of office July 2 by Gertrude Young who won a third term as North Ward alderman and by Sid Beauman who will replace Sam Habeeb as South Ward alderman. Habeeb did not seek re-election. Beauman has been head of the city’s Recreation Department.

“This week we are going to form our transition teams and I’m trying to do a lot of listening,” Leyens, 37, said during brief comments to Vicksburg Kiwanis Club members before rushing to meet with the Warren County Chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees.

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After the meetings, the 37-year-old Leyens said he began meeting with city department heads this week, but so far those meetings have been very brief and to advise them to relax because decisions have not been made to replace anyone.

He told the Kiwanis Club, he planned to form a search committee for the new position of public safety commissioner he wants to create. At the time the job was first mentioned, he said he envisioned the post between the mayor and aldermen and the chiefs of the police and fire departments.

“The search committee is the group … that will define not only the job description and the responsibilities … but also help me locate the individual,” he said.

He said he sees the job of public service commissioner as being in charge of administrative matters for the police and fire departments.

“The objective is to get politics out,” Leyens said.

He said he wants to hire a public relations person to provide daily reports on what is happening in the city, adding he also wants to hire a videographer to work on the broadcasts of city meetings on the city’s local access channel on Vicksburg Video. When there are no meetings, that person would also produce broadcasts on what city employees are doing.

“I want to put a face on city government,” he said. “Right now people refer to government as a thing.”

Leyens said there is one area where he intends to try to make a difference quickly and that’s accounting “where we play sort of a shell game where they put money in one budget and pull it out of there and put it in another.”

It may be legal, Leyens said, but it’s not right.

“I’m not intending to micromanage the departments, I’m not going to go in and start firing” people, he said. “The department heads will have a plan of work and I will hold them accountable, you will know what they’re doing and we’ll all be able to measure if they are successful or not.”

Leyens said he plans to meet Thursday with Nancy Thomas, head of the city’s legal department; City Clerk Walter Osborne; Ronnie Bounds, head of the planning department; Wayne Roberts, head of the personnel department; and John Smith of the accounting department.

“I’m going to form some subcommittees on finance … planning, the budget process” and human resources, he said.

Leyens said some of the volunteers who have been helping will be assigned to the department heads to help gather information.