Big changes due Friday, Mayfield says

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 9, 2009

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield — in position to cast the deciding vote on several high-profile city jobs — hinted this morning how things will go at Friday’s meeting of the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“There are going to be some serious and drastic changes in the city tomorrow, without a doubt — there has to be,” Mayfield said as guest speaker at the Port City Kiwanis meeting.

The jobs of Police Chief Tommy Moffett, Fire Chief Keith Rogers, City Judge Walterine Langford and City Attorney Nancy Thomas all came up for a vote with new terms of the city’s three elected officials. South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman nominated three of the incumbents, Mayor Paul Winfield nominated replacements for each position and Mayfield sat in silence.

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Mayfield declined to name names this morning, but noted he’s received the most complaints from citizens about the police, fire and inspection departments. In the latter department, there are no appointed positions. While Mayfield praised the work of the police and fire departments this morning, he also emphasized again the citizens’ calls for new administrators.

“Eighty percent of people who have called me since election day have told me unequivocally that they voted for change,” Mayfield said.

Winfield nominated Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol Lt. Walter Armstrong as Moffett’s replacement and Charles Atkins, who’s been with the Vicksburg Fire Department for 25 years, as Rogers’ replacement. He also nominated private practice attorney Lee Davis Thames Jr. for city attorney and Allen Derivaux for city judge.

Beauman nominated Moffett, Thomas and Langford, and has said he will not vote for any of Winfield’s picks because the incumbents have done exceptional work.

Mayfield, who explained his silence Tuesday by saying he needed time for performance reviews Winfield sought from the incumbents, said this morning he has met with all but two of Winfield’s nominees and he plans to meet with those today. He also said he will be visiting today with several employees whom he plans to vote to replace Friday morning. Mayfield had previously called for a 30-day moratorium.

“I met most of (Winfield’s nominees) yesterday, and I feel real good about the people who I have met with,” Mayfield told group. “I just feel good about the whole nine yards.”

Mayfield would not say if he’s decided to reappoint any current employees, but noted the city attorney and city judge positions are the “toughest decisions” left for him to make at this point.

Thomas has served under multiple administrations and was the first full-time city attorney. Langford, a former assistant city attorney, was made the city’s first full-time judge in 2008.

Also nominated by Winfield on Tuesday were Kenneth Daniels for assistant fire chief (emergency medical services), Mark Hale for assistant fire chief (firefighting), both of whom are currently on the force. They would replace current assistant chiefs Rose Shaifer and Mark Ettinger, who were nominated Tuesday by Beauman.

No changes were made at Tuesday’s meeting, but several employees in the city clerk’s office and municipal court were reappointed.

Mayfield is starting his second term and Beauman his third. Winfield beat former two-term mayor Laurence Leyens in the June 2 election by taking 61.3 percent of the vote.

Vicksburg’s payroll is about $18 million and all jobs, with the exception of rank and file police officers who are in a civil service system, are controlled by the three elected officials.

Friday’s meeting is at 10 a.m in City Hall Annex, room 109.