After two years of discussion, Vicksburg leaders to change city government structure

Published 8:54 am Tuesday, June 20, 2017

After more than two years of debate, arguments and attempts at compromise, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen have approved a resolution accepting Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s amendments to Vicksburg’s 105-year-old city charter.

The board voted Monday to put the amendments on the board’s minutes. South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson did not attend the meeting because of a death in his family.

“I’m feel relieved, now that all the work we put in is not in vain, and I think it’s the most progressive thing that ever happened to this city,” Flaggs said. “And I intend to restructure and reorganize this city so that we can have more day-to-day oversight and accountability, and I hope that translates in to saving dollars.”

Flaggs said he believes about $1.5 million could be saved through restructuring the city government.

The charter amendments, which become effective July 1, were initially approved in January and later reviewed and approved by the attorney general and the governor’s office and returned to the city in April.

Thompson and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, however, balked at approving a resolution to put the changes on the minutes because of a provision that made the mayor the police commissioner with appointing authority over the police chief. Something they said was not in the amendments they approved January 3.

The aldermen said they were concerned over the potential of giving one person sole authority over the police chief and the police department.

Mayfield said he changed his mind after talking with Flaggs about the police and the duties of the commissioner and the police chief involving the police department.

“I wanted to be sure we had an understanding, because if that understanding was not there, I had no intention of voting for it,” he said. “I don’t want to be caught in a situation where we create problems instead of remedying problems. I feel better about the fact that we talked. Here all we can do is take a wait-and-see attitude on the proposed charter and move on.”

South Ward Alderman-elect Alex Monsour said he supported the changes.

“We need to be able to be in a position to move forward and be progressive and realize Vicksburg’s potential,” he said. “And, I agree with the mayor that we need to have zero tolerance in the police department.”

The item on the police commissioner is part of a section of the charter amendments where the Aldermen are placed as superintendents over city departments with the authority to appoint the director of the division they supervise with the consent of one other elected official. The full board appoints the city clerk and city attorney.

Among some of the ordinances deleted in the amended charter include a provision making the police chief the superintendent of sidewalks with authority to make residents fix the sidewalks and moving that responsibility to the public works director, provisions regulating the speed of horses downtown, and provisions for maintaining a city hospital. Flaggs said the amended charter will give residents someone on the board they can go to with a problem.

“They have someone they can go to who is directly over a department head,” he said. “It’s a direct avenue to government and accountability.”

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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