Flaggs clarifies opinion on altering form of city government: ‘I am not in support of changing’

Published 6:38 pm Saturday, July 6, 2024

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. on Saturday issued public statements he said were aimed at clarifying his position on the idea of altering the River City’s form of government.

“I am not in support of changing the form of government to any form,” Flaggs said. “I have tried before to make the change and was met with too much pushback. The gain is not worth the pain.”

Flaggs’ statements come following a push for change on social media, as well as a meeting between himself and members of the group advocating for a shift from the current structure of government.

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Among them is Vicksburg resident Marilyn Terry, who recently met with Flaggs to discuss his position on a petition she says is currently circulating. According to Terry, the group of citizens in favor of the change in government is working to garner enough support to justify a special election concerning the matter.

“A diverse group of several hundred community members have signed a petition that will require a vote on the city of Vicksburg’s current form of government – which has been in effect since the 1880s,” Terry said in a prepared statement. “The petition, if signed by 10 percent of Vicksburg’s registered voters, would require a special election be held to allow Vicksburg voters to directly determine how their city will operate going forward.”

While Flaggs did not directly address the petition in Saturday’s comments, he did reference a recent post on Facebook he attributed to Terry and said many of the statements made were misleading.

“There is a Facebook post circulating that was authored by Ms. Marilyn Terry that says that I am advocating for a specific change in government, which is emphatically not true,” he said. “However, I will say publicly, as I told Ms. Terry when I met with her on Monday, June 10, 2024, in my office with  the Director of Community Development Jeff Richardson and my chief of staff present, I will not promote a change of government, now or during my re-election campaign.”

Both Flaggs and Terry said the notion of changing Vicksburg’s form of government is not a new idea, with Terry adding there are a number of glaring reasons for residents to revisit the prospect of moving on from the city’s current governmental structure.

“The current form consists of one mayor and two aldermen who control how roughly $136 million of local tax dollars are spent throughout their elected four-year terms,” she said. “Talks to change Vicksburg’s form of government from the current three-person form with a mayor and two aldermen surfaced in 1996 and again in 2015. With upcoming city elections in 2025, various community members have again raised concerns about the city’s form of government and how it impacts citizens from every walk of life.”

Terry said the petition currently in circulation advocates for not just a general change, but a shift to a specific alternative.

“The petition calls for a change to a council-manager form where voters would elect a five-person city council, which includes a mayor and five council members. The council would then exercise the legislative power of the city and hire a city manager, who would be the chief administrative officer of the city. While the council would be the policy-making body for the city, the city manager would handle the day-to-day operations, including the management of city employees, budget preparation, and fiscal management.”

Terry also said a public meeting to discuss the ballot initiative effort is scheduled for Thursday, July 25, at 5:30 p.m. in the Warren County courthouse. Dr. Dallas Breen, executive director of the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University, is scheduled to be on hand to discuss the current form of government in Vicksburg and the proposed council-manager form and to answer questions of the community, she said.

Breen also laid out how the structure of the proposed governmental form would operate.

“In the council-manager system, you have a city manager who is somewhat removed from politics, who is a professionally trained individual, appointed, and hired by the city to run the city,” Breen said. “City managers are on call 24/7 and answer to, or are accessible by, the people. That tends to be the form that people tend to ask the most questions about. You have someone who, more often than not, is from the outside and says, ‘I’m going to make this efficient, effective, local government.’ There’s a clear vision for what needs to get done and there’s somewhat less political pressure.”

Flaggs also stressed that the July 25 meeting is not affiliated with the City of Vicksburg and is not something his administration is supporting.

“I am also not in support of the meeting to be held Thursday, July 25, that will discuss changing the form of government,” he said. “This event is not a public event sponsored by the City of Vicksburg. I also do not support the form of government that is being advocated for, which is the council-manager form of government.”

Terry said that council-manager form of government would allow a trained professional (city manager) to work alongside city department heads and the city council to ensure that city employees receive competitive wages to effectively promote employee retention and productivity.

“The council-manager form of government is one of the most popular nationwide, although few cities in Mississippi use it,” she said. “The City of Jackson, for example, does not use the council-manager form that is being proposed for Vicksburg, but instead uses the mayor-council form of government, which is considered a strong-mayor form of government where the mayor serves as the chief executive of the city.”

Terry said those interested in signing the petition can access it at Levee Street Marketplace, located at 1001 Levee Street in Vicksburg, or by calling or texting 769-293-4622.

This is a developing story. Additional information, as well as updates of ongoing developments and a complete history of Vicksburg’s debate over its current form of government, will be available in next week’s print and online editions of The Vicksburg Post.


In 2023, The Vicksburg Post published a three-part series looking into Vicksburg’s form of government. Those articles can be found at the links below:

Timeless or Outdated? Vicksburg’s century-old commission government explored

Unpacking options: Alternatives to Vicksburg’s commission-style government

Room for reform? Future of Vicksburg’s governance rests on residents’ voices