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New District chief arrives from Iraq

Lt. Col. Jim Langan, from left, laughs with outgoing commander Col. Frederick L. Clapp Jr., as Melissa Langan greets Col. Anthony Vesay Wednesday.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[7/1/04]Pledging to listen, learn and build relationships, Col. Anthony C. Vesay assumed command of the Vicksburg District in ceremonies Wednesday.

Vesay succeeds Col. Frederick L. Clapp Jr., who has headed Army Corps of Engineers operations across the district since June 2001. Clapp is headed to Winchester, Va., to command the Transatlantic Programs Center.

Vesay came to Vicksburg from the Iraq Survey Group based in Baghdad. He is a graduate of Penn State University and received master’s degrees in civil engineering from PSU and systems management from the University of Southern California.

“I’m here to lead and to learn,” Vesay said at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

“I am very interested in relationship-building to achieve our common goals here in the region,” he said in an interview.

The Corps conducts civil works for the Army, including flood and navigation projects on area waterways. Many projects are controversial. Vesay said he wants to understand competing viewpoints from those on levee boards to members of environmental groups.

“Differences of opinion are OK,” he said. “Together we can meet the goals.”

Vesay said he expects challenges, including the Mississippi and Red rivers, the Yazoo Backwater project, the Big Sunflower and Jackson Metro projects, enhancing the environment and leaner budgets.

He said the Vicksburg District stands out as a key center of expertise for Army engineering.

Vesay will lead a staff of about 500 Corps employees at the headquarters building in Vicksburg and 1,400 throughout the offices across the state and in Louisiana and Arkansas.

The Vicksburg District reports to the Mississippi Valley Division, also based in Vicksburg with offices on Walnut at Crawford Street.

Clapp did well during his tenure as District commander, said Brig. Gen. Robert Crear, a former Vicksburg District commander and the newly installed commander of the MVD and president-designee of the Mississippi River Commission.

Crear listed as accomplishments the purchase and reforestation of more than 7,800 acres of mitigation land for the Yazoo Basin project, the raising of six miles of Mainline Mississippi River levees and awarding contracts for more than 25 additional miles, the completion of channel items in the Yazoo Basin that provided protection up to Greenwood, and signing of the feasibility cost-sharing agreement with the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District.

“I leave Col. Vesay with a challenge of my own to continue the outstanding traditions of this District, and to add to the accomplishments of Col. Clapp and his most noteworthy predecessors,” Crear said.

In his remarks, Clapp said he learned many things in his three years as District commander.

“The common thread that runs through (all I have learned) is our people. They are dedicated public servants doing everything necessary to accomplish tough missions and doing it well,” Clapp said.

Vicksburg is also home to the Waterways Experiment Station of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center which employs about 1,200 people at its large base east of Halls Ferry Road.