Lieutenant governor wants to ‘spread the word’ about Vicksburg|[01/24/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 24, 2008

An optimistic Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant was in town Wednesday, praising Vicksburg, one of its native sons and the state’s political leaders.

Speaking to the annual membership luncheon of the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce, Bryant, who took office this month, began by reminiscing about his childhood travels to Vicksburg with his family, as well as his recent trips.

“When I was a kid, Vicksburg was our vacation spot,” Bryant said. “And I still love coming here.”

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He also noted that as a well-traveled Civil War buff, he feels Vicksburg possesses the best national military park in the country.

“And I want to spread the word,” Bryant said. “We need to let everyone know.”

Tourism has been a theme for Bryant during his campaign and since. Wednesday, he stressed the importance of tourism to the economy, not only in Vicksburg, but in the entire state. He explained that the state receives an 8-to-1 return for every tourism dollar spent in Mississippi, and efforts are needed to promote travel to the Magnolia State.

“We’ve got the best product there is,” he said, referring to the state’s unique history and culture. “I want people to travel to the beautiful square in Oxford, and while they’re there, hear about the great things in Vicksburg, and while they’re in Vicksburg, hear about Natchez.”

Bryant served in the House of Representatives for five years and in 1996 was appointed state auditor by former Gov. Kirk Fordice, a fellow Republican. The Jackson resident won the lieutenant governorship by defeating former state Sen. Charlie Ross in the GOP primary and former Democratic state Rep. Jamie Franks in the general election.

During his speech, Bryant also took time to praise the present Warren County senator, Briggs Hopson III, whose term also began this month.

“We’ve given him a heavy load for a freshman senator,” Bryant said. “But he’s ready. I have confidence.”

Bryant expressed a high level of confidence in the Senate as a whole, noting that despite there being 28 Democrats and 24 Republicans in the chamber he oversees, cooperation on legislative issues has not experienced “a moment of difficulty.”

One of the issues he discussed was cutting back the number of session days from 125 to 104, which would save about $500,000.

“That’s money that could be spent on education in some way,” Bryant said, expressing the importance of education to an audience that included 15 Educator of the Year nominees.

Bryant’s speech also included mention of residential rebuilding on the Gulf Coast, the importance of ethics in the Senate and fiscal growth. Bryant noted that the state expected a 3 percent increase in revenue during the next fiscal year in the face of 15 percent increases in requests for funding. “It’s tough to please everyone,” he said.

The chamber presented the speaker a framed print of a City Front floodwall mural featuring a sunset over the Mississippi River.