Guizerix proud of city building future leaders

Published 9:51 am Monday, November 14, 2016

Skipper Guizerix loves Vicksburg.

“I enjoy this community,” he said. “This community is special. Years ago, it was all those people coming off those boats, Lebanese, Chinese, Jewish, not just black and white. Really, we’re more diverse than Jackson, because we had those people coming off the boats. And it’s something to be proud of.

“I enjoy it. You go to a party here and they’re serving kibbe. People don’t realize when you drive by the (Vicksburg National Military) park, just past the park, and that big cemetery on the right is a Jewish cemetery.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Guizerix’s first involvement with the city was 25 years ago, when the Picayune native and his wife and child moved to the Vicksburg from Jackson.

“Merchants bank hired us. We were living in Jackson, newly married and had a little baby. Somebody said Vicksburg was a closed society; we wouldn’t like it. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said, adding soon after they arrived, his wife Christy had a serious illness, “And the church, the bank, and the community rallied around us and we had just arrived. They didn’t know us. They were so good.”

He left Vicksburg in 1998, returning in 2002.

“Christy said if we ever leave Vicksburg again, I can send the paycheck here. She loves it here,” he said.

Guizerix as been involved with several community organizations during his time here, serving on the board of United Way of West Central Mississippi, and later becoming the board’s chairman in 2007.

Became involved with United Way at the urging of his employer, but added, “I saw what they were doing. I enjoy the people who were a part of that. They were the best people. The best people get involved helping others. They’re people you want to get involved with.”

When he became United Way chairman in 2007, Hurricane Katrina was still a recent memory for Mississippi.

“We thought Katrina was going to hurt us,” he said. “It was just the opposite. People saw all the problems around us, and it was the best campaign, ever before or since. The irony is, (former United Way director) Barbara Tolliver and I got before the board and told them we needed to send a check to the Coast. Whatever problems we thought we had, those people needed it so much more.

“It’s something deeply spiritual about helping somebody else. It is so filling.”

His involvement with United Way led to a position on the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and a subsequent election as board president.

“Barbara Tolliver asked me to be on the chamber board,” he said. “She is terribly underrated. She did a lot for the community as United Way director. I got on the (chamber) board and got more and more involved.

During his tenure as chamber president, the chamber began examining The Leader in Me program.

“We looked real hard at stepping off the reservation,” he said. “Not so much being about retail development as trying to focus on what was perceived as our weakness — education.

“It was my board that first looked at The Leader in Me. At first, we got a lot of criticism from the business community. They wanted us to be just on retail development.”

The chamber, however, raised the money for initially starting the program, he said, “And I’m very proud of what Bovina and Bowmar have done becoming lighthouse schools.

“Now this community has raised $250,000 to put it in every school. We have Tupelo and Madison coming here to look at all the metrics turned around, and I’m very proud of my time at the chamber because of that, because we did something a little different, and I think long term, we did better by the community.

“We had to have some good leaders, and I can’t take credit for it, but I was glad to be part of it.”

Guizerix also served on the city’s Main Street Board. The board members are elected by the downtown merchants. He served as board president in 2014.

He said the board’s push to do things to bring people downtown is creating a demand for more growth downtown, “And that’s happening, and the snowball keeps rolling as we add more people the demand spurs further growth.

“Now we have tour boats, and they’ve named us the favorite for the entire Mississippi River. It blows my mind that we’ve come so far so fast, and the momentum that was gained when we started building residences and placing people there, There’s no telling what can happen.”

He his working downtown helped get him elected to the Main Street Board.

“I had met Kim Hopkins (before his election); I volunteered for a few things she asked me,” he said.

“Kim is someone who is underrated,” he said. “Kim not good at self-promotion but she knows the business and recognized statewide and nationally. Our Main Street (program) is one of the top 10 Main Streets in the country.

Besides his work with community organizations, Guizerix is active in St. Paul Catholic Church and with YMCA.

At St. Paul, he has serves as parish council president at St. Paul andwas the voice of the parish’s Jubilee Year Committee, “And proud of what we did there, recognizing the fellow parishioners who do things as a way of life how they help each other for something beyond this life.”

He also serves as the altar boy for the church’s 7 a.m. weekday mass.

At the YMCA, he helps with several programs, including the aquatics program.

“That’s something people don’t understand about the YMCA like they should,” he said, “for a small town like Vicksburg to have a   have a facility so well-equipped like that is extraordinary. And it has programs for kids and the elderly. I’m proud of the YMCA and to be a member of the Y’s Men.”

Guizerix said his involvement in the community is spurred by his love of people.

“I enjoy people,” he said. “I’ve always been involved. Christy picks on me; she says when we go some place social event or a party, she can see I draw energy from it, I get excited around people and she has to do the opposite. She has to get fired up to go in there.

“I’m very proud that we had all this community here. There’s so much history here and there’s so many good people come and gone, and still living here.”

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.

email author More by John