Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2005

The series concludes with the mayoral contest.

The candidates are:

Eva Ford, 63, City Hall information officer, retired family nurse practitioner and clinic administrator.

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Laurence Leyens, 37, former insurance executive now a developer.

Joe Loviza, 61, former community college dean and Vicksburg mayor.

Robert Major Walker, 56, three-term mayor, historian and history professor.

Walker advances to the general election after a Democratic primary victory. Ford, Leyens and Loviza are independents. The candidate with the most votes starts a four-year term as Vicksburg’s mayor July 1.

Question 1. During the next four years, should Vicksburg use its annexation powers to add areas to the corporate limits? If so, what areas should be added?

Ford: A. I do not believe Vicksburg should incorporate additional territory when the city does not have the resources to provide the services necessary to the residents. I believe Vicksburg should clean up and make the necessary repairs needed before adding additional liabilities.

B. Southeast area.

Leyens: In the past three administrations, the city annexed many areas and has been collecting taxes on those properties, but the city has not yet provided all the services those areas deserve and for which they have been taxed. City officials have an obligation to fulfill these commitments fully before any further annexations are considered.

Loviza: If there is sufficient interest on the part of our citizens and if we can satisfy U.S. Justice Department guidelines, then I would support limited annexation in a pattern where growth is next to existing city boundaries. Ex: Oak Park, Highway 61 North from Beechwood to Kings, Highway 61-Business from Kings to the intersection of 61-N and 61-B, to include land north and west of 61-N and one-quarter mile east of 61-N, Lee Road south and west to Gibson Road, and Gibson Road from Lee Road to Halls Ferry Road and southwest to Fisher Ferry Road and Grange Hall to 61-S and Dana.

Walker: I do not have current plans or intentions to pursue an annexation during the next four years. I will use my experience and knowledge of municipal government to continue improvements to Vicksburg’s infrastructure, enhance the quality of life, and work more aggressively with other elected officials and the community to provide more activities for youth, seniors, and create jobs.

Question 2. Unlike many other governments, Vicksburg’s officials are empowered to raise their own compensation. Would you vote for or against an ordinance that makes any raises for elected officials approved in one administration not effective until the next administration?

Ford: I am against an ordinance that makes any raises for elected officials effective during their administration. If Vicksburg officials believe that a salary increase is merited, then it should become effective during the next administration. I also support optional raises every second term, and not every four years.

Leyens: Absolutely. I would support the adoption of this type of ordinance. Public service should not be about personal income or economic gain. Applicants running for office understand the salary structure being offered by the community and should accept it or not run.

Loviza: I would vote for an ordinance.

Walker: Elected officials, like other city employees, are entitled to a decent, livable salaries for the work they do. I could support such an ordinance, provided the current salaries are competitive, in line with those of other employees, and reflect the responsibilities and work load of the respective elected officials. Also, I would support a mechanism or process to determine the salaries.

Question 3. Given what you know about the cost of living and the responsibilities of the offices you seek, what would you consider to be a fair salary for alderman? For mayor?

Ford: Alderman (part-time) $45,000-$50,000.

Mayor (full-time) $65,000-$70,000.

Leyens: At present, our community has not clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of the elected alderman positions; therefore, it is hard to rationalize the financial values. The current salary for the office of the mayor is equitable based on the level of responsibility with consideration that this is public service.

Loviza: $50,000 per year for aldermen and $65,000 per year for mayor. I am satisfied with the present salary structure for anyone running for those offices at this time. I favor elected officials not having other jobs.

Walker: The cost of living in Vicksburg is high and the responsibilities of the three elected officials in a commission form of government are great, if their jobs are taken seriously. These officials handle a budget in excess of $50 million each year, which is more than many private firms whose employees who make much more. The mayor’s salary should range between $70,000-$80,000, and the salary of the aldermen should be in the $60,000 range, which is still less than some other city employees.