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Leyens: Communication will get better quickly

[06/22/01] Meetings with city employees in advance of inauguration day have been helpful, Mayor-elect Laurence Leyens told members of the Vicksburg Rotary Club Thursday.

“We have had a good dialog,” he said, adding, “I think I’m starting to get ahead of the curve.”

Specifically, Leyens said he believes a better work scheduling system can be created, leading to more accountability, and that communication between elected officials and managers can be improved.

Leyens, 37, won election to Vicksburg’s top post June 5, defeating incumbent Robert Walker. He, North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman will take their oaths of office at 3 p.m. July 1 at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

Leyens said his meetings with heads of various city departments were not conventional. For one thing, he asks them if he’s getting the right information and asking the right questions. Ronnie Bounds, city planner through five administrations, said he didn’t know because there had never been a transition team in Vicksburg before.

A complaint he heard during the meetings, Leyens said, was about the difficulty of getting the mayor and aldermen together for discussion. That has already been addressed.

“We each have an electronic calendar and any department head can call it up and schedule something in a blank. An administrative assistant can then confirm it,” Leyens said.

In the works is also a service database so resident complaints or requests can be noted and scheduled. If a matter is not handled when promised, it can be brought to the attention of people responsible, he said.

Leyens, who has said he plans to employ a public safety commissioner to oversee police and fire operations, said his meetings with people in the Vicksburg Police and Fire Departments have been fruitful.

“I want to assure you I am not planning to change the city’s charter. I don’t have the expertise to say what the police department should be like, so I want the public safety commissioner to be a buffer between the department and politics,” he said.

He said he is still not entirely sure what the position of public safety commissioner will actually be. “It may be a temporary consultant or it may be a permanent post,” he said.

In response to a question about the Vicksburg Convention Center, Leyens complimented the Walker administration on picking Compass Facility Management to manage the center. The purpose of the center is to bring outside dollars into the city. Whether a hotel is ever built near the center is a question that will have to be answered by bringing in more visitors to show a potential hotel operator there is a market and a need.

“When a market is built, a hotel will come,” he said.