Greenville mayor: Travel helps promote city

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 30, 2010

GREENVILLE (AP) — To get more attention for her city, Greenville Mayor Heather Hudson won’t be found in her office.

Instead, the second-term Democratic mayor is more likely found in a car, or on a plane on her way to get eyes, ears and the support of state and federal officials aimed at the city.

‘‘I do what needs to be done in order to get the resources that we need in this community in order to move forward,’’ Hudson said. ‘‘Ever since I took office I have said repeatedly athat you can’t sit behind a desk and expect stuff to come and drop in your lap.

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‘‘If that was the case,’’ she said. ‘‘It would have happened years ago before I ever got here.’’

Each year Hudson said she takes six to eight trips that are funded by the city — about four to Washington D.C., to the Mississippi Municipal League (MML), and other places for legislative needs.

‘‘If you look at what the city has paid for travel, it would not be nearly all of what I have gone to,’’ Hudson said. ‘‘Because the city doesn’t pay for all my travel.’’

From January to May of this year that amount has been $4,800 which included legislative trips to Jackson, the MML Conference in Biloxi, and trips to Washington D.C.

Last year, the city paid more than $6,000 for trips that included Washington, MML in Biloxi, and a conference in Las Vegas.

Hudson said those amounts are small compared to what is brought back for the city and citizens.

‘‘You can see the actual reward from it. We’re talking about millions of dollars that this city has received as a result of all of us working together and going to get what we need,’’ Hudson said. ‘‘I think it is something that is beneficial to the city of Greenville.’’

Travel for Hudson is not just limited to the U.S. During her tenure she has traveled to Greenville’s sister city in Germany.

She has also been to Israel, Nigeria and most recently, France, in June.

While the city did pay for the Germany trips, others were funded by Hudson or other governments — the Consul General of France in Atlanta paid for the June trip.

Hudson said the attention the city receives is a tremendous benefit, with state and federal officials touting the work and progress going on in Greenville.

‘‘Because we are very adamant about what we do, and we get it done,’’ Hudson said.

Not all of her time away is as a representative of the city. Hudson has other obligations that keep her out of the office sometimes.

‘‘Like every mayor before me, I have my own business or job,’’ Hudson said.

Be it for her work as a lawyer, a trip as the president of the National Conference of Black Mayors, or personal trips, Hudson still has the support of her council to help her keep tabs on the city.

‘‘Each time she is going to be away, we meet prior to her departure,’’ said Councilman Kenneth Gines. ‘‘Then have another meeting after she returns.’’

Gines was elected to be vice-mayor by members of the City Council. In Hudson’s absence, Gines is acting mayor which includes presiding over the meetings of the City Council.

Along with the responsibility, the vice-mayor is paid $2,000 in addition to his regular payment as a City Council member.

Since January 2008, the beginning of her second term, Hudson has been absent from six special and eight regular meetings of the City Council.

‘‘I have a great council that works well, it’s a blessing,’’ Hudson said.

Technology has played a major role in keeping the lines of communication open. Video conferencing, e-mail and other electronic communications aid the mayor in keeping on top of what is going on while away.

Hudson said she is not alone when it comes to making visits to Washington to seek funding for projects. The mayor says she sees her counterparts from Biloxi, Southaven, and other Mississippi cities when she travels.

‘‘You see the same people, doing the same circuits. But if you notice these are the same communities that are getting funded,’’ Hudson said. ‘‘If we don’t get it someone else will. Those are our tax dollars up there.’’