Wednesday, January 03, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cities see change of guard in new year

Leader staff writers

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson was sworn in New Year’s Day and spent much of the next day working with the former mayor’s assistant drawing new ward lines so the newly annexed residents will be able to vote and working on the agenda for the special council meeting he has called for 6 p.m. Thursday. Robertson said the council will go into executive session since he needs to hire someone to head the street department and he wants the council’s input. The rest of the meeting will be spent on the $2 million general and street fund budget that he says will likely pass as former Mayor Donald Ward drafted it. Then, over the course of the year, it will be amended to reflect what he plans will be cuts in some areas to make more money for street maintenance.

Also on the agenda is an ordinance that if passed will allow city police officers to sell their vacation time back to the city.
Robertson said Police Chief Don Inns complained that he is understaffed. Allowing officers to sell back their unwanted vacation time would be one way to keep more on the street, he said. This is Robertson’s second term in office. He was first elected 12 years ago. He served one term before he was defeated by Ward who served two terms then announced he would not seek a third after Robertson announced he was running again for a second. But this time he was unopposed.

Robertson said the transition from Ward’s administration to his has been a smooth one. “Everything was just fine,” he said. “Donald made every effort to have me informed on everything that is coming up. The transition went as well as it could have. No one was distant at all.” In Sherwood, former Alderman Dan Stedman said he’d been in staff meetings with department heads, meeting some of the city’s employees and “learning the phone system.”

“I gave them some ideas for the future,” said Stedman, who succeeded long-time mayor Bill Harmon, who retired. “We want to continue to improve the way that we do our city business,” he said. “We are looking for innovations and best practices in every department.” He said employees would focus on customer service, with Sherwood residents being the customers.
He said none of Harmon’s department heads asked to be released and that for now, everything is “pretty static.”

“There could be some changes over time,” he added.” In Lonoke, former Alderman Wayne McGee said he hoped to make appointments to committees by the end of this week. Meanwhile, he’s been going over old papers, getting everything organized and trying to make a list of everything he needs to do. McGee was unopposed in the November election after winning a runoff in the four-man Democratic primary in June.

Despite a record of accomplishment, voters turned out Mayor Thomas Privett for his close association with former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, who stands accused of nearly 40 felonies. Privett himself was charged with misdemeanor theft of services for having work done at his home by Act 309 inmate workers on loan to the city last year.

“We’re still working on some of the projects in town,” McGee said. “We’re still waiting on the contract for engineering a new I-40 interchange with state Hwy. 89 on the west side of the city. “We had hoped to have it signed by the end of the year,” he said. McGee said he would meet soon with department heads to tell them what he expects. He said he didn’t anticipate any immediate changes among city department heads. McGee, who is a partner in an auction business, a used car lot and a furniture business, has said he would treat the position as a full-time job. “I’m trying not to make any hasty decisions I may regret,” he said. “I’d rather take my time.