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Garrard ready to lead as county administrator

 

Oktibbeha County Administrator Emily Garrard talks while in her office Wednesday.

Oktibbeha County Administrator Emily Garrard talks while in her office Wednesday. Photo by: Mary Alice Weeks/Dispatch Staff

 

Carl Smith

 

While Oktibbeha County Administrator Emily Garrard formally took over the county's top administrative post earlier this month, she has yet to physically move into the head office. 

 

Garrard, an Oktibbeha County native, sorted papers Thursday in the comptroller's office - soon to be her old office - while eyeing the door adjacent to her new office. She will soon make the move, she said, into a seat held by mentor and former County Administrator Don Posey. 

 

Posey "kept the seat warm," she said, from 1996 to December, when he retired after serving five different boards of supervisors. Supervisors hired the incoming administrator on April 7 with a 4-1 vote. 

 

Garrard worked with Posey for 12 years and said she will draw from his experience and tutelage to effectively guide Oktibbeha County. 

 

The Dispatch recently sat down with Garrard as she continues transitioning into her new role. 

 

You served as comptroller for 12 years. What are the past experiences that will best serve you as county administrator? 

 

"I worked with Don Posey for 12 years. That's a lot of institutional knowledge. The way Don worked is basically he made sure I knew what was going on at all times, so if he wasn't here, I could fill in for him. We didn't like giving the answer 'We don't know' when people would call our office." 

 

What's it like knowing Don isn't here now and this is your show now? 

 

"I feel like I won't have a problem with it. I have the background to do it and shouldn't have any problems with it." 

 

Did you ever think while growing up or getting your degree at Mississippi State that you would be one of the main people running Oktibbeha County? 

 

"No, I did not. I feel absolutely honored. I really got into government by working at MSU. Being around academia, you feel kind of ignorant if you don't take advantage of the benefits they offer, like free classes. I received my degree in management, and that's how I got into it." 

 

Supervisors wanted someone that could help move the county forward during the next few years of projected growth. How does the county administrator effectively assert the will of the elected board? 

 

"Basically, it's to be the communication force between the supervisors and the public. It's about doing the things supervisors cannot do." 

 

What are the biggest challenges the county faces over the next five year? 

 

"The biggest challenge has always been finances. If the money was there, we could do everything the supervisors would like to do. All of them have fantastic ideas that they would like to put into work, but unfortunately funding keeps us from doing everything we'd like to do. 

 

"Hopefully some of the taxes we'll get from developments will go toward helping improve roads. Joey Deason and the Link are working hard to develop this county, which will add value to the rolls and allow us to do more in the county." 

 

If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing in the county, what would it be? 

 

"You've got jobs that are needed, and roads are always important. Most people don't understand how important our roads are. The way things work is that all of Oktibbeha County's issues are interwoven together and impact each other."

 

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

 

 

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