SURRATT: A few memories about Garnet Van Norman

Published 4:00 am Friday, May 19, 2023

By now, I’m sure many people have recalled — and probably will continue to recall — their memories of Garnet Van Norman.

I’d like to add a few of my own. And I’ll start off by saying I found him to be a rare individual — an engineer who knew how to discuss a project or problem in layman’s terms and a public official who gave a straight answer to your question.

I first met Garnet soon after I came to The Vicksburg Post 12 years ago. I had just begun to cover the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and heard him discuss a project with the board. A few months later, I met with him for what would be the first of many stories on the city’s infrastructure.

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That first story involved the general condition of the city’s streets, water, sewer and drainage systems. I was amazed at his knowledge of the city’s history; when the storm drains and sewer systems were installed, the materials used, their present condition and what was needed to bring them up to current standards.

After that, I relied on Garnet as a source to help me understand the city’s many projects. Many times, it was because then-Mayor Paul Winfield or one of the aldermen recommended I talk to him. Most of the time, I called him on my own to get the ins and outs of the city’s infrastructure projects. Every time I called, Garnet answered my questions and that answer might include a bit of frustration over the way a project was going.

When I had to do a magazine story on the city’s brick streets, Garnet provided a history of the city’s streets and how the bricks were laid.

When the ice storm hit in 2021, he was usually the first person I called each morning for an update on infrastructure conditions. Like many people, Garnet was stuck in his home but he had his hand on the pulse of activities and was always able to give me current information. If he didn’t have the answer on hand, he directed me to the city department head who could provide the answer.

I will miss working and talking to Garnet; he was the kind of source many people dream of having and I enjoyed the relationship we had over the years. His loss will be felt by more than just the mayor and board.

The city will eventually hire either an engineering firm to handle the city’s infrastructure needs or an engineer who Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has said may be more of a project manager.

The city will have a new engineer — or engineers — but they’ll never have another Garnet Van Norman.

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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