Mayor, aldermen highlight plans as they are sworn in

Published 9:39 am Monday, July 3, 2017

Improvements in the Kings community and the North Ward, and a tougher stance on crime will be among the top priorities for the new administration when it starts its term Wednesday, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told more than 200 people attending swearing-in ceremonies Sunday at the Vicksburg Auditorium.

“I’m going to get it done,” he said. “We’re going to start with the Kings community. The first $1 million from the $9.2 million of bond money we’re about to draw down will go to Kings, and we’re going to make Kings different.

“We’re going to give the North Ward the attention it never had, starting with Kuhn Memorial Hospital. We’re tearing it down, and we’re going to put up a structure that Dr. Martin Luther King will be honored and proud because that street bears his name.”

The plan Flaggs described is the city’s urban renewal plan for the Kuhn property that involves a mixed use development with single family homes, retail businesses and recreation facilities “and yes, tennis. They can play tennis on the north sides of the tracks.”

He discussed the construction of the sports complex and hinted at a project he called “the first in the nation, one of a kind, and because of the collaboration of the city, the county, the State of Mississippi, MDA (Mississippi Development Authority) and the United States government.”

“And we’re going to do what I’ve always tried to do, and that is reduce crime,” he said.

Flaggs said much has been discussed about what police have done with violent crime, adding he commended the officers who were a part of the police department’s efforts in solving violent crimes.

“But that’s not what I’m concerned about,” he said. “I’m concerned about not only just violent crime, I’m concerned about crimes that that lady can’t go to her car and get something because somebody’s coming through her yard and they cause property crime. Every part of Vicksburg should be safe. You shouldn’t have to lock your car on your own property.

“I want a police department that believes in community policing — patrolling the neighborhoods and not spending time downtown — and every small child will be safe and everybody in the city will be safe. You have a right to be safe. You shouldn’t have to lock up everything that you’ve worked for all your life.”

When he took office four years ago, Flaggs said, “I told you that I had every intention of working with the board to do the best I could do for this city.”

He discussed the accomplishments of the previous board, describing the growth of the city’s downtown, eliminating a deficit and the addition of a $3 million reserve fund, and making it through four years without laying off city employees and raising employee pay.

Flaggs, who was sworn in by Community Court Judge Mack Varner, was the last of the city’s three elected officials to take the oath of office. North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, who begins his fourth term on the board, and South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour who begins his first, preceded him.

Mayfield called the previous board “one of the best boards I ever worked on. We had a whole lot to do, we did a whole lot, we accomplished a whole lot, and we got the job done.”

He said he has talked with Monsour about the coming term.

“I always make sure that an individual knows where I’m coming from,” he said. “I don’t ask you to like me; I’m not here to be liked. I’m here to do a job and I’m going to do that job until I leave or you send me home.”

Looking at the anticipated appointments for police and fire chief, Mayfield said he supported Police Chief Walter Armstrong and Fire Chief Charles Atkins and would continue to do so until the appointments are made

“We have a big schedule coming up for this new board,” Mayfield said. “We have so many things on the table right now that are ready for signature, we have a lot of things that are shovel-ready, so we’re going to be busy, and I have no doubt that this board is going to be a good board because we are all experienced. We are here to do a job. This board is going to be a very busy board.

“I ask you to pray with us, I ask you to pray for us, because we’re going to need your prayers. We need your help.”

Monsour, a state representative from District 54, outlined the accomplishments in the Legislature that have helped Vicksburg, referring to $18.5 million for South Frontage Road extension, the local bill for the 2 percent tax for the proposed sports complex.

“We have said for a long time, ‘Why not Vicksburg?’ The word I’ve heard most in my lifetime in the city of Vicksburg is, ‘We’ve got so much potential.’ It’s time to stop talking about potential and make it a reality, and that’ what we’re fixing to do in the city of Vicksburg.

“I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not going to tell you something to make you go away. I’m going to tell you if I know it, if I don’t, I will find out and you can rest assured that I’m coming back to talk to you about it.”

The city, Monsour said is not about the North or South wards, “It’s for everybody here. It’s about the city of Vicksburg and we need to work and make sure the whole city is prosperous, and that’s what we’re going to do for the city of Vicksburg, I promise you that.

“We’ve got to make is so business wants to move here, families want to move here, people want to invest in our community and invest in the city of Vicksburg.”

Dr. Jerry Young, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson and president of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc., touched on the call for improving the city in a closing address, pointing out what the city needed to reach its goals was a new attitude.

“We’re in need of a change in attitude; it’s not about I or me or we, it’s about what’s right for the community.”

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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