Wife, mother worked from ground zero

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 27, 2009

Paul Winfield won the mayor’s office in Vicksburg with the help of many people in Vicksburg, but credits two women for getting him started.

His wife, Malissa Winfield, and his mother, Linda Winfield, were the first two people he consulted before embarking on the year-long campaign that ended with his inauguration earlier this month.

“I told him I was behind him 100 percent,” said Malissa Winfield, who, like her husband, is an attorney. “I never doubted he was going to win. Once I saw the sincerity, passion and seriousness, I knew then.”

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Linda Winfield knew her middle son had the tenacity he’d need.

“He has always been a politician since he was a child. What I saw in him was his determination,” she said.

Surprising some in the general election on June 2, Winfield received 4,238 votes to two-term incumbent Laurence Leyens’ 2,632.

During the campaign, Malissa Winfield, who has a background in journalism and public relations, advised her husband on the public and the media.

“I am an ear for him to bounce off ideas and strategies,” said the 35-year-old mother of their 3-year-old son, Paul Evans.  “I see him every day and we talked constantly about the campaign. I offered my assistance, particularly, as it relates to messaging and responding to the media.”

Along with holding the informal title of media adviser, she also helped canvass Vicksburg, which included knocking on doors and marketing.

She said she takes her new position as wife of the mayor seriously, but has no intention of any formal role.

“I am limited to volunteering,” she said. Her full-time legal practice is in Jackson. “When and if asked, I will do. I will not hesitate to do those things.”

Just last week, she resigned from her post as an NRoute Transit commissioner, two years short of her term expiring, saying she wanted no question of conflict on a board that has influence from the mayor’s office.

Her priorities, she said, are to be a mother and a wife.

“I want to maintain a stable environment for my husband and my child. Home is our sacred ground. The best role I can play is to support Paul in his role.”

However, she said, “I plan to seize opportunities and not shy away from invitations to speak.”

She said she strongly agrees with her husband in his goal of expanding the city’s recreation department.

Malissa Winfield is a volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, a student mentor and she is a member of the Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Association.

She is a Michigan native with Texas roots who has lived in Vicksburg for five years, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and a law degree from the University of Mississippi.

Linda Winfield, 63, is a retired scientist from the Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg.

Now she is about to begin her second year as a science teacher at Warren Central High School, a job she took not long after retiring from ERDC with 27 years’ experience.

Throughout her son’s campaign, Linda Winfield largely was involved in phone banks and in being an ear for her son’s ideas.

But “nothing was too big or small for me,” she said, admitting she even swept floors a few times.

An Atlanta native, Mrs. Winfield settled in Vicksburg with her husband, James E. Winfield Sr., in 1971. The mayor’s father was also an attorney, representing the Vicksburg Warren School District among other clients before he was killed in a car wreck in Sharkey County.

The couple’s two other sons are an engineer and an attorney.

 “They have been raised to always give back to the community,” she said. “One thing I like about my sons, especially Paul, is that they are all uniters. Paul has always been bringing people together. He’s a people person; he’s going to make you talk to him whether you want to or not.”

Paul Winfield graduated from public schools in Vicksburg, has a  political science and law degrees from Ole Miss, is treasurer for the state Democratic Party and was a delegate for President Barack Obama at the national convention last year. He was attorney for the Warren County Board of Supervisors from 2005 until 2008 and continues as the attorney for the City of Port Gibson.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com