City leaders reflect on loss of long-time city employee Sue Roberts

Published 3:14 pm Monday, September 16, 2019

The city of Vicksburg took time Monday to say goodbye to one of its own.

Martha Sue Roberts, Vicksburg native and longtime city employee, better known to city officials and employees as “Ms. Sue,” died Friday after a nine-year battle with a gastrointestinal stromal tumor, a form of cancer that led to a terminal diagnosis that she fought through the remaining years of her life.

During Monday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. proclaimed Wednesday “Mrs. Martha Sue Roberts Day” in Vicksburg and ordered all flags in the city flown at half-staff. He added the program at the Vicksburg Senior Center would be named after Roberts.

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A memorial service will be noon Wednesday at Riles Funeral Home, with visitation at the funeral home from 10 a.m. until the service.

Roberts’ career, which began in 1977 in the planning department, spanned more than four decades and the administrations of five mayors and four South Ward aldermen.

“To be on the same job for over 40 years is saying a whole lot when dealing with the public, and she was a master at dealing with the public,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said. “You don’t find that every day, and that she did it with grace, dignity and respect is saying a lot. I truly appreciate knowing her.

Mayfield, who was elected to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2005 after serving as a Warren County Supervisor, said Roberts helped him make the transition from county to city government.

“More often than not, she could tell you what you were looking for pretty much off the top of her head because of her experience and knowledge,” he said. “She was able to show me some things and teach me some things I needed to know,” he said. “I consider myself fortunate that I met her years ago. I consider myself blessed that I can go down and sit down and talk with her.”

Mayfield said city officials and employees were amazed at her resiliency during her illness.

“Often, we would wonder how she could get out of the hospital one day and be here the next day,” he said. “She would come in and do the very best she could in dealing with what she was going through on a personal level.

“Only God knows what she dealt with, but she dealt with everything gracefully, and I used to tell her often that I appreciated it. We just appreciate so very much what she did for the city of Vicksburg. And we wish the family well.”

Roberts was serving as an administrative assistant for South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour at the time of her death.

“We lost a very good and very special person; she was special to me and special to my heart,” he said, adding he visited Roberts and her family before her death. “We will be unable to replace her. She fought a long battle.”

Former South Ward Alderman Don Miller said Roberts “was a dear friend for all her life.”

He said Roberts, who served as his administrative assistant, ran the office well.

“She was just a fantastic person and a fine lady, and she meant all the world to me,” Miller said.

Willis Thompson, who preceded Monsour as South Ward Alderman and was a former city employee, knew Roberts both as an employee and alderman for 15 years.

“She was good for me when I was alderman, both professionally and personally; we had a good relationship,” he said. “We talked about work and family. There were times she was like grandma; giving advice on different things, and just always there when I needed her.”

In an interview with The Post in December 2017, Roberts reflected on her career, which at that time had reached the 40-year mark.

“I don’t think I could have worked any place other than the city and experienced the sense of accomplishment and depth of frustration and then seeing something that benefits your community so much,” she said. “I just don’t know any place you could work and have the diversity. The people are what make an organization successful, and our city so successful. We’ve had so many smart people here who have had a vision of what we could be, and engineers and planners who could make things happen.”

Roberts said the quality of employees and their connection as family is what she believed made the city government successful.

“I have enjoyed my time,” she said. “The city’s fortunate. We have very, gifted people who work behind the scenes. When I call a department, I have no doubt they will do what they say they’re going to do. It’s like family.”

Rev. P.J. Curley, former pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church, where Roberts was a parishioner, led a prayer to start Monday’s meeting.

“We lost a good one — family member, friend, patriot, powerful citizen for the city of Vicksburg,” Curley said following the meeting. “But that’s just an expression. We didn’t really lose Sue Roberts; we know exactly where she is and watching the flag at half-staff, we have these good memories.”

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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