Vicksburg and Hattiesburg officials share strategies for success at Leadership Exchange

Published 4:38 pm Monday, February 13, 2023

Community leaders from Vicksburg took a bus to Hattiesburg to participate in a leadership exchange event on Feb. 8.

Department heads from Vicksburg met with their counterparts from Hattiesburg to share and learn best practices for city operations.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and members from Vicksburg’s police, fire, parks and recreation, and IT departments along with Visit Vicksburg and the Vicksburg Convention Center staff were welcomed by Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. Barker and Flaggs have been friends for a number of years, beginning when they were both serving in the Mississippi Legislature.

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“This visit was a great opportunity to share best practices across our two cities,” Flaggs said. “Both I and Mayor Barker want to continue to push the envelope on what it means to be a high-achieving and high-performing city in the State of Mississippi — for our residents and those who provide services to them. We’re grateful for the opportunity to drive over and learn from our counterparts in the Hub City.”

The visiting Vicksburg staff was then split into three groups to discuss operational practices and ideas across a variety of topics and key buildings in Hattiesburg. Administration, IT, and Human Resources were discussed at City Hall, event-planning was covered at the Historic Hattiesburg Saenger Theater, and discussions of public safety took place at the city’s Public Safety Complex.

Vicksburg officials who attended meetings at the Public Safety Complex discussed police, court, and fire administration practices. The officials received a tour of the new complex which opened this year and met with Hattiesburg Police Chief Peggy Sealy and the city’s prosecutor.

At the event planning meeting, Hattiesburg officials shared their successes and challenges with public events and cultural programs, including their operation of the Hattiesburg Zoo and plans for the construction of a new water park that will be connected to it.

“At face value, this visit was about sharing some of our city’s best practices with our counterparts in Vicksburg, showcasing the departments and partners who help make our city thrive,” Barker said. “But more than that, today was about our ability to help make Mississippi better. I believe strong neighborhoods make strong cities, and strong cities make strong states. Sharing and collaborating on what has worked for us doesn’t make us less competitive. It helps us elevate the playing field.”

After the group meetings, visitors from Vicksburg were given a tour of the downtown area of Hattiesburg to see some of the historical sites and community programs that have been implemented by the city.

One location they visited was the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum, a project run by the Hattiesburg Convention Commission that has a variety of interactive art exhibits that are installed in a festively decorated alley in the downtown area.

The visit was something Flaggs and Barker said they wanted to do in 2022, but scheduling conflicts pushed it back. Both mayors said they believed the exchange of ideas between the two city governments was a benefit to everyone involved.