April 27, 2013 8:42:12 PM
Columbus Public Works Director Mike Pratt was found dead early Saturday.
Pratt, 44, was discovered shortly after 9 a.m. in his Third Avenue apartment. Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant said the death is still under investigation but Pratt is believed to have died of natural causes and no foul play is expected.
Pratt had just completed a training exercise with the Citizen's Police Academy Auxiliary Class and had returned home around 7:45 a.m., Merchant said. When he failed to return at 8:30 a.m. for the second part of training, concerned members of the class, including two firefighters, went to Pratt's apartment to look for him. When he did not answer the door, the firefighters entered the home and found Pratt's body.
City chief financial officer David Armstrong said he was stunned to hear of Pratt's passing.
"I'm devastated," Armstrong said. "Mike and I were very close. We spent a lot of time together. Mike had a very difficult job. It was a very, very hard job he had. He had many people that he tried to work for and do the best job he could. We were close professionally and personally. It's a great loss for the city and it's a big loss to me personally. I'm very, very upset."
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box said he had a close relationship with Pratt and was saddened by the loss.
"He was just an outstanding young man," Box said. "I was very fond of him. What can you say? It's just very unexpected. Very heartbreaking."
Merchant said he was shocked by Pratt's sudden death.
"He was the picture of health," Merchant said.
Pratt was always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, Ward 6 councilman and vice-mayor Bill Gavin recalled.
"Mike was a great employee for the city," he said. "He was always at our disposal. Mike had a hard job. It's a very hard job in public works to try and please everybody, but Mike tried his best to do that. I could call him any time, day or night, and Mike would get on the job and take care of whatever problem that we had."
Main Street Columbus Director Barbara Bigelow said Pratt was a good friend to her and her husband, Chuck Bigelow.
"His passing is a major loss for our community," Barbara Bigelow said. "We've known him and Kim (Pratt's wife) on a personal basis, and we're really going to miss him. This just emphasizes how precious life is. He's going to be tremendously missed by everyone that knows him. He has two fabulous sons and a wonderful wife. This is a great loss."
A native of Iowa and a veteran of the United States Navy, Pratt had served as the city's public works director since September 2008. He is survived by his wife, Kim, and two sons, Ryan and Stephen.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete at press time.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
1. Gregory resigns from Partnership leadership position STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
2. After nearly disappearing, local meth arrests make comeback COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Former CIA operative urges citizen engagement COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Columbus police department prepares house of horrors COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY