Leyens downsizing office for conference room

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2001

Mayor Laurence Leyens, right, stands in the gutted mayor’s office at City Hall with Vicksburg building and maintenance employee Joey Hearn, left, and department head Johnny Puckett. The office is being renovated into a conference area. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/13/01] Mayor Laurence Leyens says City Hall should be more business-friendly and is having the mayor’s office renovated to make room for meetings.

Leyens, who was sworn in July 1 after defeating former Mayor Robert Walker and three other candidates, said he is removing walls in the third-floor office used by Walker since 1997. Leyens said the larger space will be used as a conference room and that he may take a smaller office on the same floor.

“This room will be used to have business meetings with the private sector,” Leyens said. “If I use it as an office, I’ll use the corner.”

The work includes making the reception area outside of the office smaller by moving the wall separating that space from the mayor’s office three feet out and expanding the area to include the office of one of Walker’s three former administrative assistants.

Leyens, whose campaign included reducing the size of the city’s workforce, reduced the number of mayoral assistants.

He will share the third-floor space with the new strategic planner, former City Clerk Paul Rogers, and a project coordinator.

The new city organizational chart created by Leyens also reduced the number of assistants for North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, from two to one.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman also has one assistant, as did his predecessor, Sam Habeeb.

Johnny Puckett, head of the city’s buildings and maintenance department, said the City Hall work is being done by city employees and should cost about $1,500. Most of the material from the wall that was moved is being reused in the construction expected to be finished Monday.

The 98-year-old building that is home to five divisions of Vicksburg government and the mayor and aldermen has a small conference room in the legal department. Another conference room is in the city-owned Neil Building, which is next door to City Hall on Walnut Street, but Leyens said he feels it is not professional to take business leaders to another building for meetings.

“The Neil building is not a place to bring an $80 million investor from Chicago who wants to spend money in your town,” Leyens said. “It’s just not the right environment.”

The former garage and gas company building was purchased by the city in 1995 for $250,000 and renovated for office space. The building is home to various offices including purchasing, engineering and the downtown development department, Main Street.

Built in 1903, City Hall was renovated in 1940 and again in 1996. Other changes planned include moving the human resources department to the Neil building.