Salaries nearly same in two administrations

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pay for people in top positions under Vicksburg’s new administration will nearly mirror levels paid at the end of the former Mayor Laurence Leyens’ second term.

As appointments were being made earlier this month, requests for salary information met with responses that the figures had not been set. Afterward, a written request was required. Under the state’s open records law, compensation paid to any public employee is public information.

To view a chart of the pay comparisons, click here

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Police Chief Walter Armstrong will be paid $90,000 annually, about $2,000 less per year than departing Chief Tommy Moffett made.

Fire Chief Charles Atkins Jr.’s salary was set at $68,000 — $113.59 less per year than former Chief Keith Rogers had made at the end of his 7-year stint at the helm.

Mayor Paul Winfield said he suggested all salaries be kept level because none of the new appointees was taking on any less responsibility than their predecessors.

There was some compromise on the police chief’s salary. South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said he would not support starting out the police and fire chiefs at what the former chiefs had made. North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said he wanted to meet with the new chiefs once more before deciding, did so and then suggested Armstrong receive slightly less than Moffett was earning.

“I didn’t have any problem paying him the same rate as Moffett was getting because he has the same responsibilities and, I believe, more qualifications,” Winfield said of Armstrong, who retired from the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol in June with 25 years of patrol and administrative experience, “but the nature of this business is compromise.”

The salaries were set by the board on Monday and Tuesday, July 20 and 21, in executive session, and were revealed Wednesday based on the public records request. 

“I felt like there should have been a base pay they should have been reverted to,” said Beauman of the police and fire chiefs’ salaries. “It’s nothing personal. There were tenure and performance-based raises in the salaries our former chiefs, which they had earned. If we’re just going to cumulatively set salaries based on what the former employees have gotten, at some point we’re going to reach a point where the positions are overpaid.”

The police chief’s salary has increased by more than 70 percent over the past eight years. Mitchell Dent, who preceded Moffett as police chief, was paid $52,400 annually when he was replaced in 2001. The Leyens administration set Moffett’s pay at roughly $80,000, which had increased to $92,057 by the time of his replacement earlier this month. When Moffett retired from the Biloxi Police Department in 2001 after being chief for 16 years — in a city nearly twice the size of Vicksburg — he was making $62,338.

Beauman said he went along with setting the salaries of the new city attorney and city judge at the same levels their predecessors received. City Attorney Lee Davis Thames Jr. had his salary set at $100,460, while City Judge Nancy Thomas’ was set at $104,114 — a modest raise from what she made as city attorney but the same as Walterine Langford was paid as city judge. Langford was moved back into the city attorney’s office where her compensation will be $94,113.

Kenneth Daniels and Mark Hales, who replaced Rose Shaifer and Mark Ettinger as deputy fire chiefs, will both make $60,000 annually. 

Pay for City Clerk Walter Osborne, who was reappointed by the board and last week reached 10 years of service, remained at $73,169.

Mayfield said he felt the police and fire chiefs both had the experience and knowledge necessary to justify their respective salaries.

“Sid Beauman was going to vote against this even if you wanted to pay them $10,000, because he didn’t want these people in these positions,” Mayfield said. “Personally, I didn’t think the former fire chief was being paid enough, and I don’t think the current chief is adequately paid at $68,000. Based on his qualifications and responsibilities, I am comfortable with where the police chief’s salary is … and I have spent some serious time with him to make sure he understands the high expectations the public and I have of him.”   

Beauman said he had suggested the board set the police chief’s salary between $80,000 — where Moffett started — and $85,000, and provided no suggestion on the fire chief’s pay.

On Friday, Beauman also broke from the board during an executive session and voted against the second of two new positions Winfield has created since being sworn in on July 1. Kenya Burks was hired as chief of staff by a 2-1 vote on Friday, while Marie Thompson was hired earlier in the month as policy and intergovernmental relations director by a 2-1 vote. Burks is being paid $70,000 annually, and Thompson $41,000.

Winfield has called the positions necessary to get the city operating more effectively and efficiently. Beauman contends it’s just not a good time to create more spending on salaries when the recent budget discussions have shown how little extra money is available.

The annual salary for the mayor is $81,033.68 and for aldermen, $64,827.10.


Contact Steve Sanoski at