Change will free mayor from daily routine

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

Mayor Bob Massengill said a departmental organizational changeapproved this week by the board of aldermen will allow the mayor tofocus on transforming Brookhaven from a “good city” into a “greatcity.”

“If Brookhaven is going to be the progressive city it needs tobe, then the mayor has got to be more involved in planning for thefuture,” Massengill said. “Otherwise, we’re just treadingwater.”

Following an executive session for personnel reasons Tuesday,aldermen voted to name Jimmy Furlow departmental coordinator. Inhis new capacity, Furlow will work with and assist department headswhile acting as an extension of the mayor’s office.

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Massengill said the move will free up his time by lessening hisdirect involvement in day-to-day decisions on potholes and otherroutine matters and allow him to devote more time to planning forthe city’s future. The mayor said he had identified 22 areas inneed of long-range planning.

“Identifying areas is one thing. Developing plans is somethingelse,” Massengill said.

Massengill said the move will allow Furlow to deal with areaswith which he is already familiar. Furlow has over 30 years withcity, including time with the fire department, water department andstreet department as traffic coordinator.

“This is not an attempt by me to get out of work,” saidMassengill while also stressing his desire to remain accessible tothe public.

Massengill said Furlow is not moving into a city manager orpublic works director situation. Rather, he will serve as aresource for department heads.

“The departments are still going to report to me, and I’llreport to the board,” Massengill said.

Massengill cited Furlow’s recent work with Solid WasteDepartment supervisor Jimmy Cooks as an example how the plan can besuccessful.

“It is more effective than it’s ever been,” Massengill said ofsolid waste operations. “Barring a terrible equipment breakdown,that department should be able to operate without going into thered.”

Furlow, who was also approved for a $378 a month raise in hisnew position, was optimistic about the change.

“I feel great about it,” Furlow said. “I think the city’s goingto move forward like it needs to.”

Furlow’s traffic-related duties will be handled by streetdepartment employee Billy Case. Massengill said Furlow will beavailable to help with traffic light concerns when needed.

Massengill said work orders from board members would still cometo him and he would relay them to Furlow. Furlow did not want to beperceived as a supervisor of city departments and emphasized havingthe mayor’s input on issues.

“I want his guidance in all of it,” Furlow said.

Massengill said the change will let the mayor plan for thefuture as well as identify and work toward getting funds toimplement those plans.

“I really believe it is going to be a positive thing for thecity, regardless of who the mayor is,” Massengill said.

After eight months as mayor, Massengill said he has a bettergrasp on the office and is in a better position to use a morebusinesslike approach to running the city.

Among the 22 areas in need of planning, Massengill saidannexation is an important one. However, he also indicated it isnot the most pressing because the matter is still pending incourt.

Massengill said the city is already working on storm water flowand drainage concerns. Other focus areas he mentioned includedestablishing goals and measuring employees’ job performance, pavingand maintenance of streets and an analysis of employee salaries andbenefits.

The mayor also touted the importance of working with otherlocal, state and federal officials to encourage economicdevelopment and to identify grants and other avenues to fund plansfor the city. As plans are developed, Massengill said they will bepresented to the board of aldermen for members’ input and revisionwhere desired.

“It’s got to be a joint effort,” Massengill said.

Massengill said he believes citizens will be pleased with theoperational changes and will like what the see in the days, weeksand months ahead.

“We’re going to have day-to-day operations running better, andwe’re going to plan to see that the city’s future is sound andsolid,” Massengill said.