‘He’s going to be sorely missed’: Longtime Vicksburg city clerk retiring

Published 1:32 pm Saturday, December 9, 2023

On Dec. 29, the City of Vicksburg loses one of its anchors.

That is the day Walter Osborne, who has served as city clerk for 24 years, retires. Parties will honor him and officials and co-workers will talk about how he handled the city’s finances and operations and, most important, how indispensable he has been.

“Walter is one of the most dedicated and loyal employees who has ever worked for the city,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “He’s just a phenomenal person, and he’s going to be sorely missed by the city.”

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When Osborne closes his office door for the last time, it will mark the end of 42 years in public service working first for Warren County and then for the city. But then it seems he was destined to work in the public sector.

“Back when I was in high school, I worked my summers with the Corps of Engineers because my dad worked with the Corps,” he said. “My dad was friends with Oren Bailess, who was then the tax (assessor and) collector for the city, and I came to work during my summers between school.”

Osborne went to Ole Miss, where he was in the university’s school of accountancy. When he was a senior, he was interviewed and hired by a Houston, Texas, oil company but later turned the job down after his father became ill and his mother asked him to come home.

When he returned home, he received a call from Bailess, who then was Warren County chancery clerk.

“He wanted me to come and talk to him,” Osborne said. “At first he just wanted me to help with their claims docket, and he put me on contract. I was working in the evenings and afternoons because I had actually gotten a part-time job (with the city) in water and gas administration.”

Bailess later hired Osborne as the accounting systems analyst for a new computer system.

“The position just kind of exploded and I took on more duties and more duties and more duties, and I enjoyed it,” Osborne said. “That was actually my first job, working with county government, which I enjoyed.”

Ward 1 Alderman Michael Mayfield, who was a county supervisor when Osborne was with the county, said Osborne “has always been steadfast in everything he done. He’s been cordial. He’s had a great attitude working with the public through all the years. I’ve always considered him not only an asset to the community but a lifelong friend. I hate to see him go. I really appreciate what he’s done for Warren County and for Vicksburg.”

When Paul Rogers retired as city clerk in 1999, then-Mayor Robert Walker, Alderwoman Gertrude Young and Alderman Sam Habib approached Osborne about taking the job.

“I prayed about it and prayed about it because I knew it was an appointed position and I actually loved what I did with the county,” he said. “But I knew this was a new avenue that was going to just be wide open to me working more with the citizens of Vicksburg.

“I interviewed for it and got this job and have loved it since day one.”

Osborne praised his “great staff.”

“I loved working with them,” he said.

Osborne said he was never looking for any rewards or pats on the back.

“I loved what I was doing and the enjoyment I got out of it was seeing what’s going on in the community. Each day is something new … (and) working with the various administrations has been rewarding for me.”

He said probably the toughest part of the job has been when it comes to telling an elected official, “You can’t do that.”

“Or getting with our legal department and trying to understand what the elected officials are trying to do and then seeing if we do it in a different way that’s acceptable through state law,” he added.

Ward 2 Alderman Alex Monsour said Osborne has been very helpful.

“When I got here on 2017, I had a lot of questions because from one level of government to the other, it’s different,” said Monsour, a former state representative. “He’s been a great asset; he’s always helped me. He keeps us informed and inline in all meetings.

“He’s just a wealth of knowledge for the city of Vicksburg; he’ll be hard to replace. He always loved the city of Vicksburg and tried to do the best for the city of Vicksburg.”

When he leaves, Osborne said he’ll miss the people he’s worked with at the city, adding they have become like family.

As for the future, “I haven’t broached that chapter yet,” he said. “I’ve laid awake at night wondering what that’s going to be. But just like God has led me to my jobs, I have hope that he’s going to lead me to a decision on what I’m gonna do for the rest of my rest of my life because I’m hoping to be around for quite a long time.”

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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