Leyens officially in race for 2nd term at City Hall|[2/23/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Mayor Laurence Leyens officially threw his hat into the ring Tuesday, becoming only the third candidate to file to run for the city’s top seat.

Leyens, 40, is seeking his second term as an independent. Others who have filed are Eric Rawlings, 42, and John Shorter, 38, who are both seeking the Democratic nomination.

“I hope the community will give me an opportunity to serve for four more years so we can complete our plans and visions,” Leyens said.

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Leyens began his first term to any elected office in 2001 after defeating then-Mayor Robert Walker and two other challengers, including former Mayor Joe Loviza, by taking 60 percent of the vote. Since, he has spearheaded an $8.2 million renovation and downtown urban renewal project, a $17.5 million bond issue and the overhaul of the Vicksburg Police Department, which has included a 50 percent turnover in officers.

The Leyens administration also has raised salaries for police, firefighters and laborers, as well as pay for the mayor and aldermen. The mayor is paid $73,500 and aldermen, $58,000.

“My administration has substantially moved the community forward, created jobs and made the community cleaner and safer,” Leyens said.

Although Leyens is only the third to file qualifying papers to run for mayor, District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, 44, has been campaigning for the Democratic nomination, and Loviza, 65, has said he will run as an independent.

The deadline for candidates to qualify is March 4.

The first party primary election is more than two months away, but already Leyens has come under criticism for changes in the police department and private property he owns near the urban renewal district.

“I’ve been the mayor for all the people, not just some political clique,” Leyens said. “Being mayor is a lot more substantial than the rhetoric that is going on in the community right now.”

The names of the independent candidates will first appear on the June 7 general election ballot along with the winners of the party primary races. The primary election will be May 3 with a runoff, if needed, on May 17.

Voters will also select aldermen to represent the North and South wards. So far, candidates for the North Ward seat are Vickie Bailey, 36, an independent; Rodney Dillamar, 45, Democrat; Michael Mayfield, 47, Democrat; incumbent Gertrude Young, 49, Democrat; Tommie Rawlings, 41, independent; and Carl Yelverton, 58, Republican.

Only the incumbent, Sid Beauman, 57, a Republican, has filed for the South Ward race.