Transition|Winfield takes notes at Leyens’ meeting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paul Winfield attended his first board meeting as Vicksburg’s mayor-elect on Wednesday, took notes and accepted a brief greeting from two-term incumbent Mayor Laurence Leyens, who said he hopes the community will support Winfield.

“The community is what drives this community, not the mayor,” Leyens said.

Leyens, who gathered 38 percent of votes cast on June 2, said his City Hall office is mostly cleaned out, but he does plan to attend board meetings set for Monday and for June 25, the last before Winfield, 35, is sworn in on July 6.

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Winfield, who sat with his campaign manager, Dorwin Shields, during the business session, said afterward he’s been meeting with some city department heads and an advisory panel he’s assembled to help the transition. He did not give the names of the five members of his panel, but has said previously they would include those from inside and outside of his campaign team. 

During his campaign, Winfield made few specific pledges other than calling for Police Chief Tommy Moffett’s job, and personnel will likely be a top issue as the new administration begins. The city’s charter directs the board of mayor and aldermen to elect a slate of city corporate officers as their terms begin. 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. Deference, by tradition, has been given to the mayors on appointing police chiefs because the city’s charter also gives mayors the title of police commissioner.

Winfield said he has not identified a replacement for Moffett, and said he hopes to sit down with South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield in the near future to discuss the matter and others. The two aldermen will start new, four-year terms. Neither had a re-election opponent.

“I am going to need to sit down with the other elected officials and have some very candid discussions with them about what they want to accomplish and what they feel has been accomplished,” Winfield said. “There are some highly qualified people who have submitted their resumes.”

Beauman has twice voted in support of Moffett leading the police department, while Mayfield voted in support of him in 2005, at the outset of Mayfield’s first term as alderman. Moffett was selected by Leyens to head the department shortly after he took office in 2001, and he previously had been on the Biloxi Police Department for 24 years and had retired as chief.

“I know a lot of people are anxious to find out who is actually going to (be the next police chief) — and I’m anxious as well to get some resolution there — but I’m new coming in here and I’m going to need to make sure I’m making very informed decisions,” Winfield said. “I anticipate some of the (corporate officers) appointments will be made at our very first meeting and some of them won’t. Those changes can be made at any point in time, and I don’t think it would be wise for me to come in and make a bunch of drastic changes at the outset. It has to be done in a timely fashion.”

Winfield said he intends to establish a 10- to 12-member task force once he takes office to help him further the goals outlined in his campaign platform, HEAL — standing for housing, economic development, adequate policing and leadership. He said he has not yet met with Leyens to discuss issues left on the table after the mayor’s departure, which Winfield has said he wants to do before he takes office.

A native of Vicksburg, Leyens, 45, said he is still considering job offers in Vicksburg and outside of Mississippi, and doubted he’d reach a decision before the end of his term. He has ruled out another run for mayor in 2013. Regardless, he said he’s still unsure if he’ll remain in Vicksburg once his term is officially over.

Winfield is a Vicksburg native and had a private law practice in addition to public roles as attorney and city judge for Port Gibson and attorney for the Warren County Board of Supervisors from 2005 until 2008.


Contact Steve Sanoski at