Shorter: As mayor, he’d scrap airport, chief

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 17, 2009

If elected mayor, Democrat John Shorter said Thursday he would push to close Vicksburg Municipal Airport and replace Police Chief Tommy Moffett.

“I’m going to work on a common sense basis. If we need it, we’ll do it. If we don’t need it, we won’t do it,” Shorter told members of Port City Kiwanis as guest speaker at the group’s weekly meeting. “There’s a lot of things being done that don’t make sense.”

Shorter is vying for his party nomination along with Gertrude Young, Paul Winfield and Tommy Wright. The four will compete May 5, with a runoff May 19 if none of them gets more than half the votes cast. The winner will advance to a June 2 one-on-one contest with Mayor Laurence Leyens, who is seeking a third term as an independent. No Republicans filed and there are no contests in the city’s two wards

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

Under Leyens’ direction, the city has taken a renewed interest in its airport on U.S. 61 South. The airport’s terminal is being renovated and an airport layout plan recently created includes more expansion over the next 20 years, including a larger runway capable of handling commercial air traffic. Leyens has also said Curt Follmer, hired as airport general manager, will oversee the renewal.

Shorter said he doesn’t see the logic in spending millions at the Vicksburg airport when the city already supports Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in Mound for about $30,000 per year plus additional grant matches for capital improvements.

“The cost of supporting the Tallulah airport is so insignificant,” Shorter said. “Curt Follmer makes more than what the city and the county pay to support the Tallulah airport.”

Follmer, hired in December, is paid $60,000. Shorter said the Vicksburg airport site could better be used for housing or the development of an industrial park, which was the plan in 1983 when the city initially partnered with Warren County, Madison Parish and Tallulah to build VTR.

Leyens has said he sees the Vicksburg airport as vital to development and has been working to bring a $60 million defense testing facility to the airport as one example of its potential. Shorter said Leyens’ approach has been wrong.

“It’s not a movie. You don’t build it and hope they will come,” he said. “The question you have to ask is: Does it have any return for the taxpayer? They never tell you what the return is on your money. The return is a dream.”

Shorter was also critical of police leadership. He said Moffett, hired in October 2001 after retiring from the Biloxi Police Department, is not assigning enough officers to preventing and solving serious crimes in the city.

“I believe the leadership has to be changed,” he said. “When issuing traffic citations has a higher priority than fighting real crime, something is wrong.” 

The three other Democratic candidates have not publicly stated their positions on the Vicksburg airport or police department’s leadership. However, when she was North Ward Alderman, Young voted in 1998 to keep the city airport operational when the mayor at the time, Robert Walker, and the South Ward alderman, Wayne Smith, voted to close it.

Other issues Shorter touched on during his 30-minute address included his desire to reinvest and expand in the city’s recreation department, his opposition to privatizing recreational programs and commitment to reducing utility charges. Shorter alleges the city has been overcharging some residents on their utility bills to repay bonds taken out under Leyens’ administration.

“I have been complaining about this and warning people about this since 2005. The bills are being manipulated, and some of the poorest citizens are paying the highest bills,” he said. “Either the meters aren’t right or there is human manipulation.”

Shorter is a Vicksburg native and Hinds Community College graduate who works as a materials coordinator for Palm Spring, Calif.-based Desert Support Services. He is also the NAACP Vicksburg Branch president and Warren County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman. He is married to Vicki Shorter and has two children, 21 and 12.

The club is hearing from all the candidates. 


Contact Steve Sanoski at