First city meeting: New organizational chart proposed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2001

From left, South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, Mayor Laurence Leyens, North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young and City Clerk Walter Osborne share a laugh before getting down to business Monday during the first board meeting of the new administration at City Hall. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[07/03/01] Before an audience that overflowed into the hallway Monday, Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens unveiled a proposed flow chart for administering city operations.

About 43 people piled into the council room, designed to hold 45, for the first official meeting of the new administration sworn in Sunday. Leyens, who is serving in his first elected position; North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, who is beginning her third term, and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, also serving his first elected post, were jovial at the start of the meeting, but became serious when it came to handling the business of reappointing city officers and presentation of the chart.

“It looks like we already need a much larger board room,” Leyens said to the audience.

“But we’re not going to do it,” said Beauman, who ran as a fiscally conservative Republican.

Except for a handful of procedural miscues, such as Leyens announcing a motion had passed before calling for a vote, the meeting to cover a one-page agenda went smoothly.

“This is the honeymoon stage,” said Young, who will again serve a mayor pro-tem, presiding in the absence of Leyens.

The proposed chart brings former City Clerk Paul Rogers back into the city fold as a full-time employee. Rogers, who retired in June 1999 after 13 years of service as clerk under three mayors, continued to work part-time as a consultant for the past two years.

Under the chart proposed by Leyens, Rogers will be the city’s strategic planner, a new position created to work with most city departments. In previous administrations, city departments were divided among the three elected officials who reported back to the rest of the board.

Another new position proposed by Leyens is the human services department. The new office will consolidate the Kings Center, City Auditorium and other social programs into one department.

North ward Alderman Gertrude Young, beginning her third term Monday, said this morning that she is against the establishment of the strategic planner position.

“They tell us we’re supposed to be cutting steadily and they’re creating steadily,” she said.

Young said she will propose her own organizational chart, which would diminish the authority of the strategic planner.

Under Leyens’ plan, the departments will coordinate with the strategic planner who will answer to the city board. The city’s five officers, city clerk, city attorney, municipal judge, police chief and fire chief will still report directly to the mayor and aldermen.

“I want the public to understand that we are going to substantially change the way we do business,” Leyens said.

One of the ways Leyens said they will be doing business differently is by having public meetings with city department heads every Friday. He said the meetings would be open to anyone and would be televised on the city’s cable channel 23.

Other changes in the city’s organization proposed by the new administration include the elimination of three administrative assistants and creating three new positions to help communication with residents.

Leyens said he will have two administrative assistants where former Mayor Robert Walker had three.

The three positions Leyens said he wants to create are a public relations specialist, a television programmer and a community outreach specialist. All three will help deliver information to the public either through the media or at monthly meetings in different neighborhoods, he said.

Although the organizational chart was listed on the agenda for discussion, Young and Beauman made no comment during the meeting. The three members of the new administration had met privately for one hour before the public meeting and half an hour after to discuss the plan.

One position not included in the proposed organizational chart is the proposed public safety commissioner Leyens campaigned heavily for over the four months leading up to last month’s municipal election.

“We still are going to pursue the concept of a public safety commissioner,” Leyens said. “It’s not clear whether that will be a permanent or a temporary person, but I’m very sincere in wanting to separate politics from our safety departments.”

Action of the new organizational chart, although not required by the city’s charter, was tabled until Friday to allow time for comment, Leyens said.

In other matters the board:

Tabled awarding bids for two manufactured picnic shelters for Riverfront Park.

Declared July 4 a legal holiday for city employees.

During executive session, promoted Craig Upton to director of the parks and recreation department to replace Beauman, approved the hiring of Patty Mekus as administrative assistant to Leyens and administratively terminated the employment of Walker and former South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb for bookkeeping purposes.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday at City Hall.