Meridian Star

July 7, 2013

City's future in new hands

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — On July 1, Mayor Percy Bland and members of the Meridian City Council were sworn into office.

    Three new members of the council were seated: Randy Hammon, Kim Houston and Kenneth Dustin Markham.

    Incumbents Barbara Henson and George Thomas returned to their council seats. Bland, the city's first African American mayor, defeated incumbent Cheri Barry in the June 4 general election.

    As the city transitions to a new administration, we would like to take this opportunity to wish Bland and his administration, as well as the council members, the best of luck and ask that residents of the Queen City throw their support behind their efforts.

    At the same time, we would like to thank Barry, and longtime council members Jessie Palmer, Mary Perry and Bobby Smith — who were defeated in the recent election — for their service to the city.

    Smith served eight years on the council. Perry served 14 years and Palmer served a total of 24 years — for a combined total of 46 years.

    The city's department heads serve at the pleasure of the mayor and Bland is bringing in several new faces.

    Under Barry's administration, Tim Miller served as chief administrative officer; Monty Jackson was Public Works director; Connie Royal was Community Development director; Beauchamp Jones served as City Court judge; and Ronnie Walton was the city attorney. They will not be returning under Bland's administration. We thank them for their service.

    Last Tuesday, at the first meeting of the new city council, members approved all but one of Bland's appointments to fill the department head positions.

    Returning is Ed Skipper, the city's long-time director of Finance and Records. Fire Chief Anthony Clayton retains his post as the city's fire chief. Both men have worked for the city for more than 30 years.

    Hugh Smith replaces Jackson as Public Works director. Smith, who served as Jackson's assistant, was appointed on a temporary basis.

    John McClure, Meridian Main Street director, will serve as the city's Community Development director, a position he has held before.

    The city's new police chief, James Lee, comes with impressive credentials, and is leaving his post with the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security to take the post.

    Lee is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force; a former U.S. Marshal; former chief of Lexington and Pickens police departments; and a former officer with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

    Bunky Partridge was appointed director of the city's Homeland Security department, a position he has held before. The council also approved the appointment of Michael Goggans as city attorney and Robert D. Jones as City Court judge.

    Parks and Recreation Director Mark Naylor still has his job, but his name was not on Bland's list of appointments. Bland said he has not yet made a decision on the position.

    The only department head appointment by Bland that was not approved by the council was that of chief administrative officer. Bland has chosen civilian military contractor and NAS Meridian retiree Curt Goldacker as his CAO, but the council tabled his appointment for future consideration when told Goldacker would need up to 90 days before he would be out of his current job.

    We like Bland's department head appointments and we were impressed with the energy and enthusiasm displayed by the city's new council members prior to their election.

    We are also pleased to see that some institutional knowledge will be retained with the reelection of two longtime council members and reappointment of some experienced department heads.

    It's a good mix of established leaders and new, energetic faces.

    We wish them well. As the old saying goes, "A rising tide lifts all boats." In order for Meridian to succeed, the city's new leaders will need to succeed.

    They face the future with a blank slate. How well they do is in their hands.