Board prepares for future with empty mayor’s office

Published 6:00 am Thursday, March 25, 2004

With Mayor Bill Godbold’s resignation effective next week and anew mayor not taking office for at least two months, Brookhavenaldermen took steps Wednesday to continue city operations in theinterim.

During a special called meeting with city department heads,aldermen approved Traffic Department Superintendent Jimmy Furlowserving as an assistant to Mayor Pro Tem Terry Bates. Furlow hasheld a similar position under Godbold.

Board members stressed that Wednesday’s actions would betemporary until a new mayor takes office. A tentative May 18special election date would allow a new leader to begin duties inearly June.

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“Everything we’re talking about is effective April 1, until thenew mayor comes in,” said Ward Five Alderman Tom Smith. “Then wecan do otherwise.”

Bates emphasized unity and a “one city” approach as officialsmove through the transition.

“To make it work, we’re going to have to work together,” Batessaid.

Smith offered several motions involving Furlow. One would havenamed Furlow as public works director and have city departmentheads report to him.

Furlow, however, said he did not want to be in a position oftelling department heads what to do. Following questions aboutchain of command from Street Department Superintendent JimmyGriffin, Furlow said he would only want to continue in the mayoralassistant capacity he has held under Godbold.

“He’s been here as long as I have, and he does a good job,”Furlow said of Griffin.

Regarding a chain of command, City Clerk Iris Rudman Smith saidthe law does not allow delegation of mayoral authority to anotherperson. She indicated that Bates, as mayor pro tem, has the sameduties and authority as Godbold in his absence.

“We don’t have anything to do with that. The law says he’s incharge,” Rudman Smith said of Bates.

Aldermen approved a motion for Furlow to be assistant to themayor pro tem. Bates will oversee day-to-day operations withassistance from Furlow as needed.

“He’s not out there to give them orders,” Bates said.

Following the meeting, Furlow said he expected little change inoperational activities.

“We’re going to keep operating the city the way we’ve beendoing,” Furlow said. “I’m here to help and do what the board asksme to do. We’ve got department heads who are going to run theirdepartments.”

Bates said he was still deciding whether he will run for mayorin the special election. Bates said he only wanted the mayor’sposition if he thought he could help the city.

“I don’t want to take a title job or for a big show,” saidBates, who works full-time at the Delphi Packard plant.

In other action, aldermen approved the transfer of James”Peanut” Arnold from his position supervising landfill functions tothe street department. Arnold, who is on vacation this week, isexpected to oversee litter crew activity in the streetdepartment.

The board rejected a Smith proposal that would have returnedJerry Case from the street department to the landfill. Casepreviously oversaw transfer station operations at the landfillbefore a department reorganization in connection with privatizationof city garbage services.

Bates and other city officials, however, cited Case’s desire notto return to the landfill and personnel conflicts in turning downthe employee move. Instead, the board approved keeping RickeyWatson as the sole employee at the landfill.

A vote to transfer a solid waste department truck to the streetdepartment for use with the mosquito spraying machine prompted adiscussion about the need for maintenance of city equipment.

“Somebody’s going to have to take maintenance by the horns,”said Steve Moreton, city building inspector and purchasingagent.

Ward Four Alderman Bob Massengill said some city equipment isgetting old and has not been properly maintained. He said the boardneeds to consider that during budget time later this year.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron added that the city needs aqualified mechanic to help maintain and repair city vehicles.Massengill agreed.

“We need to start thinking about that. We need to start workingtoward that,” Massengill said.