A new face at the place where Vicksburg’s struggle began|[01/08/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 8, 2008

PORT GIBSON — Claps and cheers rang out at City Hall Monday, touted as “a big day for Port Gibson” after Fred Reeves recited his oath as the city’s new mayor.

About 100 people gathered for the ceremony. The year’s first city board meeting was then called to order by the new mayor.

Reeves ousted two-term incumbent Amelda Arnold with 380 votes over her 192 in the Nov. 13 Democratic Primary, but a court challenge by Arnold was still pending.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“It’s a relief and a blessing that we finally got this far,” Reeves said after being sworn in by City Judge Robert Andrews.

An audit and orientation to the city’s records and property will be priorities, he said.

After the primary votes were counted, Arnold said Reeves should not have been accepted as a candidate due to his residency, which she said was in Illinois where public records show he filed homestead exemption through 2006.

Reeves responded, in part, that he’s a registered Port Gibson voter and has cast ballots and run for office there previously, including against Arnold for the $40,000 per year mayoral post.

Arnold’s contention, however, led the city’s election commission to pull Reeves’ name from the general election ballot, but Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard issued a temporary restraining order, overturning the commission’s ruling the day before voters were to head to the polls.

Arnold and her attorney, Omar Nelson of Vicksburg, filed their appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court Dec. 6, two days after the election, when Reeves polled 353 votes as the only candidate. The case is still pending and a spokesman at the state Supreme Court said today the first expected move is a brief to be filed by Arnold’s attorney before Jan. 29.

Reeves said Monday that although he didn’t know the status of the suit, he plans to move forward.

“We can’t let that hinder us. This is the path, and I’m moving forward regardless of the outcome,” he said.

Reeves, who said during his campaign that he plans to “put the City of Port Gibson back in a good financial condition” by having an audit performed and determining how much debt the city has acquired, is sticking to his word, he said.

“I will get in touch with the state auditor and do work in every department to see all of the financials,” he said. “That’s a must for the taxpayers. I plan to call the auditor in the morning.” In Mississippi, the state Department of Audit does not review municipal bookkeeping.

Reeves, 60, also said he will begin his term by meeting with all department heads and the city engineer today. His plans as mayor include providing jobs for young people with an emphasis on small businesses and establishing health-related programs in local schools.

Carnell Jones, a resident of Port Gibson since 1984, said she believes Reeves, a former educator, has the intelligence and knowledge to move the city forward, which is something she feels the entire community wants and needs.

“We are all looking for change, and we’re looking forward to it,” she said. “I think his work will prove he is the person for the position. The fact that he received so many votes proves that the people are ready.”

Former City Clerk Cathi Dodgen was also there to support Reeves.

“From the showing here this evening and the mixture of people, we are all very enthusiastic,” she said. “The people spoke.”

It’s Reeves “positive vision” for the city that brought Hollis “Lang” Purviance out in support of the new mayor.

“We had eight years where businesses left, but never came,” he said. “The negative atmosphere of the past administration deterred businesses. I feel (Reeves) has a good vision for Port Gibson.”

Also sworn in Monday were Ward 1 Alderman Eddie Walls, Ward 2 Alderman Vera Johnson, Ward 3 Alderman Kenneth Davis, Ward 4 Alderman Marvin Ratliff, Ward 5 Alderman Leslie Case and Ward 6 Alderman Michael White.