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Search process continues for Starkville community developer

 

Carl Smith

 

Nine candidates applied for Starkville's vacant community developer job, one of the last high-tier positions the city has left to fill, Personnel Director Randy Boyd confirmed. 

 

Aldermen have not set a date for interviews but could do so in their 5:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall, Mayor Parker Wiseman said. 

 

Since the board took over last year, the city experienced wholesale changeover in numerous leadership positions. Aldermen interviewed and hired new employees for chief administrative officer, city clerk and police chief - Taylor Adams, Lesa Hardin and Frank Nichols, respectively, since Jan. 1. In addition, the city also filled its chief municipal court clerk's job. 

 

Starkville's former community developer, William Snowden, tendered his resignation Dec. 2, becoming the city's fourth significant departure last year. Snowden was absent from work since October, when aldermen granted him six weeks of health-related leave. 

 

Before his leave began, the board tasked Snowden with a comprehensive review of the city's sidewalk and landscaping ordinances. The report was originally slated for the fall and then delayed until February.  

 

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker previously attempted to form a non-partisan review committee comprised of aldermen, developers and members of local advocacy groups, but his request was shot down with little discussion. 

 

Since Snowden's departure, community development employees reported to Wiseman, and Adams gave an update on his independent review of the sidewalk issue, one in which he hinted the city could back a significant expansion project in the future, contingent on the availability of funding. 

 

Aldermen approved the ordinance reviews after Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn and Ward 3 Alderman David Little said the city's current sidewalk development district places unfair burdens on developers.  

 

Wynn has repeatedly read aloud emails from constituents that paint Starkville as a city unfriendly to business developers since the issue first emerged. 

 

Wynn also publicly took Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory to task over a Partnership letter that backed Walker's ordinance review. Wynn said Gregory was unfairly using the Partnership to flex her own opinion, but in fact the group's board of directors authorized Gregory to compose such a document. 

 

In that November meeting, Wynn said she would "be more than happy to 'woman-up' and apologize" to Gregory if Partnership Executive Committee Chairman Richard Hilton confirmed the group supported Gregory's action. A public apology has yet to be seen. 

 

Aldermen forced out former CAO Lynn Spruill, who is now one of three applicants remaining for the county's vacant administrator spot, during their first month in office. Then, former Starkville Municipal Clerk Debra Wood was forced to resign her post or face termination after a lengthy closed-door board meeting on a personnel matter. Wood resigned the next day. 

 

The city also accepted former Starkville police Chief David Lindley's letter of resignation after about an hour behind closed doors this winter. He was originally placed on administrative leave in November before formally retiring Dec. 31. 

 

Ultimately, aldermen gave little to no reasoning behind any of the personnel moves. 

 

The previous board of aldermen hired Snowden, the former Tuscaloosa, Ala., economic developer, as the city's first community developer in February 2013. His salary was set then at $75,000.

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

 

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