Leyens says he’ll seek third term as mayor|[05/23/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

Mayor Laurence Leyens said Thursday he will seek a third term, a decision he feels is necessary to continue the progress made through two four-year terms.

“Whether you like me or not, you can’t deny the progress,” he said. “I don’t feel like we’ve completely gotten there. I feel obligated to give (developers) an opportunity to invest and get the outcomes they’re expecting.”

Leyens, 44, landed the mayoral seat in July 2001, winning his first and only political campaign. After completing a major downtown overhaul with a $17.5 million bond issue, he decided to run again in 2005.

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Last summer, the city approved a second bond issue – for $16.9 million – to pave city streets, make improvements to the Oak Street corridor, replace the Washington Street rail overpass at Clark Street and begin the first phase of a recreation complex off Fisher Ferry Road. So far, paving and some work along Oak Street is under way.

When Leyens announced in 2004 to the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club that he would seek a second term, he said he would not seek a third.

‘Whether you like me or not, you can’t deny the progress. I don’t feel like we’ve completely gotten there.’LAURENCE LEYENSMAYOR”Ninety days ago I was not going to run again. I felt like leadership needs new thoughts,” he told Vicksburg Rotarians Thursday. “But, I do think I need to run again.”

Leyens’ decision, he said, is driven by business, not politics.

“I want that economic development angle. I want people to move here,” he said.

Leyens cited his relationship with Atlanta developer Roy Choates, who has committed to build affordable houses in Vicksburg, as one of many that resulted in investments here.

“People can invest anywhere. Why would Mr. Choates choose to invest here?” Leyens said. “He’s doing it because he likes the relationship he has with me and he likes the direction Vicksburg is going. I feel it’s my obligation to hang out another four more years.”

Municipal elections will begin in a year with party primaries in May, followed by the general election June 2. New terms start July 1, 2009.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, who has also served two terms on the city board, said he has not decided whether he will seek a third term. North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, a former county supervisor who unseated Gertrude Young in the 2005 election, said he plans to run again.

“Right now, we still have a lot of things we’re trying to do,” Mayfield said. “This bond issue just began with street paving along with many other things. There’s a lot of stuff on the table outside of the day-to-day, which is a chore and a challenge. I’m comfortable with running for the position again.”

Leyens’ formal announcement was joined with a challenge to Vicksburg residents to join him in his efforts to promote the city, a call for support reminiscent of his 2005 campaign slogan, “Be a Part of It.”

Since entering office, Leyens has targeted changing the aesthetics of the city, dressing up the riverfront and rehabilitating downtown. He has also been criticized over his past seven years in office for an abrasive personality.

He said, if elected, he plans to continue his work to improve Vicksburg, but has no intentions of changing his personality.

“I’m a little aggressive, but my motivation is true and I understand what the investors are after,” he said. “I’m not a touchy-feely guy. The bottom line is there is a lot of money coming in here, and it’s an opportunity for you to get in the game and benefit.”