City money man Rogers is retiring effective today

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 26, 2009

The highest-paid city employee in Vicksburg — the man who managed the city’s millions — is retiring, effective today, primarily because he said he’s losing money by continuing to work full time for his salary of approximately $150,000 a year.

“My retirement pay will be about $1,000 more a month than what I make if I keep working,” said Vicksburg Strategic Planner Paul Rogers, who announced his retirement Thursday. “It’s time.” 

To read the notice on Paul Rogers’ office door, click here

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Rogers, who began his career with the City of Clarksdale in 1973, was recruited by the City of Vicksburg four years later. He initially retired in 1999, but was brought back full time in 2001 at the urging of then-newly elected Mayor Laurence Leyens.

He was first a deputy clerk to City Clerk Marie Pantoliano, then city clerk and, for the past 10 years held the title with which he retires.

Rogers oversaw the creation of annual budgets, purchased the natural gas for the city’s utility service and handled the city’s insurance plans and finances, among other duties. Essentially, he was the money man, including the years before casino development when the general fund was $9 million to $11 million until today when the city collects and spends more than $30 million per year.

“We could not have been functional without his knowledge,” Leyens said of Rogers. “I’m not sure the City of Vicksburg will ever find another person like Paul. He’s at work at 5 in the morning and there later than anybody else — and you can usually find him there on the weekends. He also knows as much about municipal law as anyone else at City Hall.”

Rogers said his decision to retire was made before the June 2 election and Leyens’ ouster by Democratic challenger Paul Winfield — who will be inaugurated a week from today. Rogers, who has worked under five mayors, said he intends to stay on as a part-time employee through the summer to assist Accounting Director Doug Whittington with incomplete 2007 and 2008 audits and the budget for fiscal year 2009-10. Once that work is complete, Rogers said he and his family will remain in Vicksburg and he’ll likely find another part-time job.

“I’ll probably do some kind of work just to keep my mind sharp,” said Rogers, who will celebrate his 61st birthday next month.

Originally from Lexington,  Rogers is married and has two sons and three grandchildren. He said he’s promised his wife they’ll do some traveling. Asked if he’ll miss the job — which routinely took up 60 plus hours of his week — Rogers only provided a grin.

“I still like dealing with people every day and helping them walk though their problems — I’ll miss that much,” he said.

In 2005, the Leyens administration was criticized for giving Rogers a 50 percent pay increase when a public pledge had been made  to give no employee a raise of more than 6 percent. His raise meant he was making double that of either the mayor or aldermen. Leyens defended the increase as necessary then, and justified it again on Thursday.

“He was the highest-paid employee ever in the history of Vicksburg, and he was worth every penny,” Leyens said. “Part of the reason we initially brought him back was there has never been a universal accounting program for municipalities. For the past 30 years, all of that work was done on Paul’s own spreadsheets and programs and no one had thought about how he would be replaced when he initially decided to retire (in 1999). That put us in a tough position, and we’ve been working very diligently over the past few years to become less dependent on him.”  

Two years ago, the city spent an estimated $500,000 on new accounting software, and last year’s budget was the first prepared with the new system. Whittington, a Vicksburg native, was hired last July to begin the process of working alongside Rogers.

“Doug was hired specifically to be Paul’s heir-apparent, with the hopes he would eventually transition into Paul’s position,” said Leyens. “We’ve given Doug a directive to hire a certified public accountant so he can begin to take on the role of strategic planner.”

With the transition into the Winfield administration, personnel matters are uncertain at best. However, Whittington said he is prepared to take on the new role if asked. Whittington previously worked for five years as an accountant and governmental auditor for May and Company before joining the city staff. “I’ve learned infinitely more than I previously knew about the inner workings of a municipality by working with Paul — things you can’t learn from a book,” said the Warren Central High School and University of Alabama accounting graduate. “I can’t even guess at the number of hats he’s wearing here. It’s definitely going to be a challenge without him, but the city must go on. It’s an ease on my mind to know he’ll be here at least part time for a little while, but I wish we had him for another year. I might just have to show up at his house from time to time.”

Rogers was initially brought to Vicksburg to help the city set up its first computer system in 1977. He became deputy clerk in 1979 and was promoted to city clerk and comptroller in 1986.

Sans Leyens, South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield accepted Rogers resignation in executive session on Thursday. Prior to going into the closed session, Beauman asked City Attorney Nancy Thomas if he could comment on a personnel matter and then said he didn’t care if it was appropriate or not, he wanted to publicly acknowledge Rogers for his service to the city.

“We owe a lot to Paul, and we will always will,” he said. “I appreciate him and if you live in Vicksburg, Warren County or anywhere in Mississippi, you need to be very appreciative of this guy. He’s done more for us than most people will ever know.”


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