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franklin county times

E-mail could signal Public Works director's resignation

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Oct. 10, 2001
Meridian's new Public Works director sent Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms an e-mail Tuesday that one city employee said "probably was a resignation."
But Maureen Lofton, the mayor's assistant for governmental affairs, said she couldn't recall the e-mail's exact wording. If it was a resignation from William E. "Bill" Stewart, she said, it was invalid because it didn't have a signature.
Storms would not discuss Stewart's e-mail today, referring all questions to city attorney Bill Hammack. Hammack could not be reached for comment.
Mayor John Robert Smith, who recommended the city council hire Stewart last month, could not be reached for comment. Lofton said the mayor was out of town Tuesday afternoon and would not return until later today.
Stewart said Monday he planned to resign from office after about a week on the job. Stewart would not discuss his reasons for resigning; he said he and city leaders discussed no other alternatives to a resignation.
Irby in temporary role
Stewart was scheduled to start work Oct. 1 as director of the Public Works Department. Stewart came to the job after serving as deputy director of McComb's Public Works Department.
The Public Works director is a high-profile position whose responsibilities include maintaining city streets, drainage systems and sewerage systems. The job had been vacant since former Public Works Director Benny Wolfe resigned effective July 3.
Lofton said Tommy Irby, assistant public works director, is serving as interim director in Stewart's absence. Irby served as interim director from the time Wolfe retired until Stewart was hired.
Mayor holds key
Lofton said the next move is the mayor's to make. She said the job "is his appointment and he will make the determination as to how to proceed to hire a new Public Works director."
Lofton said she doesn't know how many candidates Smith considered for the position before settling on Stewart.
Ward 4 City Councilman Jesse Palmer Sr., one of two council members who opposed Stewart's hiring, said he preferred promoting a city employee rather than hiring an outsider.
Palmer said he would like to make the Rev. Odell Hopkins, a longtime city employee, Public Works director. Hopkins has been with the city for 17 years; Palmer said that Hopkins has had "previous experience in the Public Works Department."
Palmer said he still was surprised at Stewart's decision to resign: "I can't make any sense out of it. I've never heard of anything like this happening, so it's a real shock."
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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