Public meeting on city charter Thursday

Published 12:18 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said he’s ready to change the city’s charter, but he’s not going as far as changing Vicksburg’s form of government to do it.

“Let me make it emphatically clear: I do not want to change the form of government; never wanted to change the form of government,” he said at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “It was an option, and all we had to do was take one of the option. The option I wanted was to change the charter.”

He will present his proposed changes at a June 8 board work session “to amend the charter to include all the things I think are unnecessary in this charter.” He will still hold a 5:30 p.m. public meeting Thursday.

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The meeting was initially called to get the public’s opinion on a possible change of government, but the mayor said the topic has changed “to get the input to see what people would like to change in our charter.

“I want to make that emphatically clear,” he repeated, “I do not and will not vote to change the form of government. What I will do is make government more efficient and more accountable to you, the people.”

The decision to amend the charter is the result of a compromise between Flaggs and Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Willis Thompson that came after Flaggs sent them a May 5 letter giving them three options: hold a referendum to change the form of government from a three-member commission system to a mayor-council form of government with seven part-time councilmen; amend the charter to give the mayor sole appointing authority of several city department heads; or eliminating the mayor and aldermen in favor of a three member commission with the commissioners electing a chairman to preside at the meetings.

The mayor said Mayfield agreed to review the charter, provided any changes became effective with the next administration.

Thompson, Flaggs said, agreed to look at whatever he presented.

Vicksburg’s 142-year old charter has been amended several times since its approval in 1873.

Once was in 1912, when voters changed the form of government from a mayor-council form with nine part-time councilmen to a commission form of government, with three commissioners elected at large, one being the mayor, and all with equal authority.

Initially, the aldermen were part-time. The charter was amended in 1977 to make the aldermen full-time with a salary of $20,500 and set the mayor’s at $27,500. The mayor’s salary is now $93,450, and the aldermen’s pay is $74,550.

Flaggs has been critical of the city’s form of government since the new board’s first meetings in July 2013, when he was unable to get his nominees for police and fire chief and city judge approved by the board.

Since those early meetings, he managed to adjust to the system and has gotten along well with Mayfield and Thompson and the board has been unanimous in its actions involving city business.

Flaggs resumed his push for a change to change how city government operates in April in a speech to the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce, when he said the city’s present form was unable to meet the demands of a changing city.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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