Vidalia mayor-elect taps former alderman as city manager

Published 12:20 am Friday, April 1, 2016

VIDALIA — When mayor-elect Buz Craft was considering the run for office, he went to former alderman Bill Murray and said he’d only do it if the local businessman would be his city manager.

Murray, who was the co-manager at F.R. Blankenstein Co. in Natchez and now owns his own commercial foodservice facility consulting business in Vidalia, said he thought it over and accepted.

“Public service is the most fulfilling work anyone can do,” Murray said. “It allows you to serve the people you love — what could be more rewarding than that?”

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Since being elected, Craft and Murray have been working toward the transition that will be effective on July 1 when the newly elected mayor is sworn in. Craft said he has had several meetings, but the most important one has been in relation to the city’s finances.

Craft said a new accountant is important enough to the city that someone should be hired to replace Ashley Anderson before he takes the oath of office. However, he would like to work with the city to make sure the person selected was someone Craft could work with.

“One of my biggest issues is making sure the finances of our town are in order, that we are fiscally responsible,” he said. “Having the right people in accounting and making sure that oversight is in place are needed to make sure the city is run correctly.”

Amongst his goals for the department is to have the 2018 financial audit of the city come back clean.

Craft said he has met with Mayor Hyram Copeland twice since the election, once with Murray, who ran against Copeland in 2008, present.

“We have been talking about personnel issues and a little about the city’s projects,” he said. “We have a big, day-long meeting coming up on getting us up to speed on everything going on.”

City Clerk Vicki Byrnes was also involved in those meetings at city hall, and Craft said she is working up an organizational chart with salaries for him.

Craft said he wanted an audit done on the city’s finances, and after that is complete, he said personnel decisions could be made.

“The people who are providing good work for the city of Vidalia have no reason to be concerned,” he said. “We are not looking to have a big shakeup.”

Craft said he has had meetings with a few department heads: Vidalia Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone; IT director Bobby Paul; recreation director Johnny Lee Hoffpauir; and city attorney Scott McLemore. Over the next few months, he plans to continue meeting with department heads and other elected officials for the city.

As important as the other meetings, Craft said it’s been refreshing to hear the excitement about the future from the Vidalia’s people.

“It’s a big responsibility — one that I take seriously,” he said. “I will surround myself with incredible people, and we can make this incredible city move forward.”

He also wanted to remind people that the city still had a choice coming up.

“On (April 9) — we still have an important decision to make,” he said. “I hope people get out and vote for the alderman of their choice.”

Raymond Murray and Robert Gardner are in a run-off election for alderman in District 2. Murray narrowly led the three-person race — 39 percent to Gardner’s 36 percent.