Conversation is key in government

Published 8:28 pm Saturday, January 2, 2016

Mayor George Flaggs Jr., through his staff, does an excellent job of keeping Vicksburg residents informed about the goings on of city government, so when an email arrived from him Monday morning, that was nothing unusual — that is until I opened it up.


The email forwarded to us from Flaggs’ office contained a copy of an email written by Main Street executive director Kim Hopkins addressed to Vicksburg Chief of Police Walter Armstrong.

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In it, Hopkins very emotionally reacted to a story in our newspaper last week about the city’s board of mayor and aldermen voting to hire a security firm to patrol downtown without consulting or at least coordinating with our city’s chief of police.

Hopkins berated the chief for commenting on the story to Vicksburg Post reporter John Surratt. When Surratt called Armstrong to get his comments about the hiring of a security firm to patrol downtown, Armstrong was unaware that had taken place and said so.

Hopkins wrote in her email that she talked with several police officers about the hours they patrol downtown and that she discussed hiring a security firm for downtown with Deputy Chief Bobby Stewart. In our story, Stewart said Hopkins did talk with him, told him the city was thinking about hiring the security firm and sought some information, but did not indicate it was a done deal, never called back to inform the police department about a final decision.

Hopkins told Armstrong in her email, “You are not always available for me to discuss things with.”

That made me chuckle. I’ve tried to reach Hopkins on at least two occasions and have never been successful. The last time I called her office, I wanted to leave a voicemail message for her, but the recording said her voicemail was full. I even sought help in contacting Hopkins through someone at city hall who had her cell phone number. I called that cell phone, and the city hall employee texted her trying to get in touch with her. To this day, Hopkins hasn’t returned my call.

On the other hand, Armstrong is one of the easiest people to get in touch with in this city. On my first full day at work here, Armstrong came to visit and left me his business card, including his cell phone number. I’ve called him numerous times and every time he has answered or returned the call promptly.

Hopkins wrote at the end of the email to Armstrong, “I usually keep my mouth shut, but sometimes enough is enough.”

Actually, Hopkins should have taken the time to call Armstrong personally with her complaint, rather than exacerbating the situation with an anything-but-civil email message, copied to members of Armstrong’s staff, city employees and even members of the business community.

The issue is indicative of the larger problem within Vicksburg city government.

Something is standing in the way of clear, open and civil communications between departments and the citizens of Vicksburg are paying the price.

Hopkins perhaps did begin a conversation with some in city government about the hiring of security firms, but it’s clear she didn’t follow through as she should have — and as the mayor and aldermen thought she had — with sharing those plans as they came to fruition with the police chief.

Nonetheless, Armstrong is our police chief and by all accounts is doing a fine job at it and deserves the respect of others in city government. Any conversation involving the security of this city should include him.



Jan Griffey is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at