Winfield sworn in|New mayor promises hard work, excellence

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 3, 2009

During his inaugural address Friday evening, Mayor Paul Winfield acknowledged the task at hand, but said he intends to succeed in making Vicksburg one of the greatest cities in the Southeast.

“We have so much hard work ahead of us. But with faith, determination, hope and a willingness to roll up our sleeves together for a better Vicksburg, I am certain that we will accomplish (our goals) and truly transform our community,” said Winfield, who received standing ovations before and after his address.

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A crowd of roughly 500 turned out at the Vicksburg Convention Center to see Winfield, North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman take the public oath of office.

Mayfield was the first to take the oath and, following a prayer led by his father, the Rev. Henry Mayfield Sr., the alderman drew inspiration from “The Wizard of Oz” to sum up the responsibility Winfield, Beauman and he have as they enter a new, four-year term.

“Let’s get real. We don’t live in Oz. There is no Dorothy who is going to come up and lead us to the wizard,” said Mayfield, who is entering his second term at City Hall. “When you come to City Hall, you better have your own brain — and it better be intact — because you deal with things in City Hall every day that affect every single individual in this city. This is serious business, and you better take it seriously.”

Winfield and the aldermen had taken the oath privately this week before Friday’s ceremony, and the new mayor’s first full day in office was Thursday. The new board’s first meeting is Tuesday at 10 a.m. in room 109 of the City Hall Annex, 1415 Walnut St., during which they are expected to make personnel decisions on many high-profile positions at City Hall.

Winfield, 35, beat two-time incumbent and independent Laurence Leyens in the June 2 election with 61.6 percent of the vote. Mayfield acknowledged the flurry of rumor and speculation that’s surrounded Winfield as he’s transitioned into City Hall, and encouraged Vicksburg’s residents to end the hearsay and take a positive, active role in local government.

“I’ve heard all kinds of things since Mr. Winfield took office. Everybody is saying this and saying that,” he said. “Paul Winfield has one vote; Michael Mayfield has one vote; Sid Beauman has one vote — and that is not going to change. You need to start realizing that you’re here to help us…work with us, and we’re going to do our very best and Vicksburg, Mississippi, will continue to move forward.”

Entering his third term, Beauman, 60, said he is looking forward to working with Winfield and Mayfield over the next four years — but added he will not seek re-election in 2013. Beauman took office for his first term in 2001, at the outset of the Leyens administration, and had largely voted in-step with the former mayor.

“It’s going to be different for me, I know that — it’s going to be different for them — but I’m looking forward to working with them,” he told the crowd. “In these last four years, we’ll do the things you want us to do and we’ll do them the way you want us to do them.”

Winfield, an attorney by trade who has not run for or held public office previously, called his role as new mayor an “awesome, yet humbling task,” and emphasized he will not allow his term to be marked by divisive politics.

“There are people in this room who I want to listen to me closely when I say this: I will have zero tolerance for those of you who choose to promote conflict amongst local boards,” he said. “We need to think big and mean it. We need to say goodbye to the days of divisive politics.”

During his address, which lasted a little more than five minutes, Winfield said his administration would respect all city employees, partner with the business community, create more activities for Vicksburg youths and work to provide more affordable housing.

The inauguration lasted about an hour, and afterward lifelong Vicksburg resident and Winfield supporter Frank Crump said he believes Winfield will be able to deliver on his campaign pledges.

“I’m impressed with him, and I think he’ll be able to work with the two aldermen to move the city forward,” said Crump.

After the inauguration, however, some residents on Washington Street were less than impressed with the way Winfield celebrated. The mayor arrived at the convention center in a stretch limousine, and afterward was escorted by a pack of police cars and motorcycles as the convoy cruised down Washington Street.

“It’s an abuse of public funds. I’m all for the mayor celebrating his inauguration, but riding down Washington Street in a limousine with police escorts flashing their lights and honking their horns? I just found it arrogant,” said Randy Ashcraft, a Washington Street resident and developer who supported Leyens in the election. “The city doesn’t have money like that to waste.”

Winfield said earlier in the week the limousine was donated, but he did not know from whom. Police Chief Tommy Moffett — whom Winfield has pledged to vote to fire Tuesday — said approximately 20 officers were assigned to cover various aspects of the inauguration from about 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. Most were paid overtime, Moffett said, but he could not estimate the total cost to the department for the inauguration.

“It was above and beyond,” Moffett said of the security detail and limousine escorts, “but we were prepared to do whatever we were asked to do, and that’s what we did.”

Moffett, who was hired by Leyens in 2001, said no escorts were used during Leyens’ 2005 inauguration at the city auditorium. While he could not provide an exact number of officers who worked security for the inauguration four years ago, he said it “was not as many as this year.”