Winfield to name transition team; ‘shocked’ Leyens undecided

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mayor-elect Paul Winfield said Wednesday he intends to assemble a small panel of citizens and community leaders over the next week to help him transition into City Hall on July 6.

“I haven’t chosen anyone yet, but it’s going to be people who I respect and people who I believe have an understanding of the consensus of the citizens. Not necessarily people who are going to tell me what I want to hear, but people who have the best interests of Vicksburg in mind,” he said. “I have a lot of work to do, and I can’t afford to let the people of Vicksburg down — I won’t let the people down.”

In a separate interview, Mayor Laurence Leyens said he was shocked by Tuesday’s outcome — in which he received roughly 1,600 fewer votes than Winfield and 1,300 fewer than he did in 2005 — and has not yet decided on what he’ll do after leaving office.

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“I guess I’ll be looking for a new career,” Leyens said. “We’re having some family discussions about our options right now, but it’s too early to make any decisions.”

Leyens said he has no ambition to take another run for mayor in 2013. He has a background in business administration and marketing, and said he’s already been offered a handful of jobs in the private sector and doesn’t know if his family will remain in Vicksburg.

“I gave eight good years of my life and I’m very proud of what we accomplished. I have no regrets — but I don’t have any interest in running again,” he said. “I will find my new chapter.” 

Leyens said he plans on cleaning out his office in City Hall this weekend and making Wednesday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen regular meeting the last he sits in as mayor. The board is also scheduled to meet on June 15 and 25 before Winfield is sworn in. Leyens did not attend a special called meeting to approve a grant application this morning.

“I’ll do a simple thank-you and goodbye,” Leyens said.

Winfield won nearly identical, landslide victories in both the May 5 Democratic Primary and Tuesday’s general election. He won 61.61 percent of the 3,165 votes in the primary, and 61.63 percent of the 6,876 votes cast Tuesday.

The mayor-elect said he has not spoken to the outgoing mayor since election night, but hopes to sit down with him in the coming weeks to discuss unfinished projects and initiatives.

“I know there are some projects he’s been working on that I am not aware of that I probably need to be aware of,” he said, adding he would like to meet with as many past mayors as possible before he is sworn in. “I’m coming in with an open mind,” he said, “and I want to address each issue as it comes to me. I’m going to have to pace myself and come up with a game plan to introduce my plans to the board and the public.”

During his campaign, Winfield, 35, made few if any specific public pledges. Personnel will be a top issue as the new administration begins. The city’s charter calls on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to “elect” a slate of city corporate officers. The mayor’s vote, as in all matters, counts the same as an alderman’s in the selection of a city attorney, sexton, clerk, fire chief, police chief and judge.

Winfield said he is looking forward to sitting down with all the city’s department heads to get their opinions on what is working well and what needs improvement in their departments. On the campaign trail, he pledged to replace Police Chief Tommy Moffett — whom Leyens brought on shortly after taking office in 2001 and has strongly supported since — expand recreation opportunities and overhaul the code enforcement process in the buildings and inspections department. He said he has no one in mind to head the police department and noted the public should not anticipate any changes will be made in haste.

“We’re not going to rush through things,” he said. “We’re going to be methodical and think things through before we make any decisions. We’re going to have to take this one day at a time if we’re going to make the right decisions.”

Winfield said any exhaustion he was feeling on the campaign trail was erased by Tuesday night’s convincing win. He began planning his transition into City Hall on Wednesday morning, and said he doesn’t intend to take any breaks over the next month besides treating his 3-year-old son, Paul Evans II, to a weekend trip to the beach. Winfield and his wife, Malissa, are both attorneys.

“Little Paul has been talking about the beach for a few weeks now. My entire family has really sacrificed a lot to help and support me through this election, and I feel like I owe it to them to take a weekend off and spend it with them,” he said. “But for the most part, I’m going to be grinding.”


Contact Steve Sanoski at