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Archive for: September 2011

FELDER: Removal of Williams puts it all on the shoulders of council, mayor

Ben Felder, News Editor

I think firing city Manager Clark Williams was a mistake. I think you can look at the progress this city has made on several important issues and give a lot of credit to Williams. I also believe the city was fortunate to have Williams as city manager when the May 24 tornado swept through town and the recovery process has been better with Williams than without.

Williams has a vast amount of experience when it comes to state and federal legislation that can benefit municipalities and his knowledge on building standards and regulations provided Piedmont with a significant advantage. The city has a lot of spinning plates right now and I fear a change at city manager could cause some setbacks.

But, that’s my personal opinion and it’s not my call to make. The city manager serves at the will of the council and the majority of our elected officials said it was time for a change. Over the past several months I have urged residents to give our new council and mayor more time before passing down any judgement. Our city faces a lot of challenges and our city leaders deserve more than just a few weeks to try and address those challenges. But with the removal of Williams on Monday night, this council has now opened itself up for critique.

It’s possible that Piedmont will bring in a great city manager that has the right skill set to move this city forward. A year or two from now we might look back and say a change at city manager was the right decision and the city is better for it. If that’s the case then be prepared to give this council and mayor the credit. But it’s also possible that the removal of our experienced city manager could lead to further delays and missed opportunities. If that ends up being the case, and I sincerely hope it isn’t, the bulk of the blame will rest with this council and mayor.

With Monday’s 3-2 vote against Williams the council and mayor has placed the responsibility of the city’s future squarely on its shoulders. It’s not that they didn’t previously have any responsibility, but they are now firmly behind the wheel and its up to them to drive us forward.

The council and mayor were vague on their reasons for ousting Williams, except to say there was a lack of trust. The only person to offer any specifics was newly appointed councilmen Jeff Davis who said the city had lost potential grants and stalled on needed infrastructure projects due to Williams’ incompetence as a city manager. In that case we should expect a wave of projects over the next couple of years because Davis and the council will now have an opportunity to prove the city manager’s job could have been done better. At the very least we should expect a new stoplight at the intersection of Edmond and Piedmont in the near future, according to Davis.

One thing is for sure, hiring a new city manager will be the most important decision yet for our elected officials. These are important days for Piedmont and we need a person that can help carry this community from sleepy rural town to a bustling suburb that reflects the kind of quality of life its residents want. My opinion was that we had the right man for the job but the council thought otherwise and will have the chance to prove they are right.

We need to be aggressive in hiring a new city manager. Some will say Piedmont is a tough job because of the political climate, but I believe we have a lot to offer. The search for a new city manager shouldn’t simply consist of local interviews but we should expect the search committee to think big. Look for the number two person at a city twice our size, possibly in some of the booming suburbs of Dallas. Piedmont can be an attractive place for an experienced city manager and if the salary is not high enough forget about hiring a public relations consultant, as was discussed on Monday, and use that extra money to hire the best person available.

The decision to oust Williams was made because a majority of the council and the mayor believe it will make Piedmont a better place. Some might say it was a decision based on political motives, and woe to Piedmont if that’s the case, but it won’t take long to figure out if this move was the right one to make.

If Piedmont is a better place with a new city manager then credit goes to these leaders. If the town suffers because of this move then the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of our council and mayor.

Barresi visits Piedmont school, answers questions

State Superintendent Janet Barresi spoke to Piedmont school district teachers and administrators on Sept. 29 at Stone Ridge Elementary School. (Right) District Superintendent James White listened as Barresi addressed a wide variety of educational topics.

Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi made a visit to Piedmont on Thursday as see held a Q/A session with several district teachers and adminstrators.

Barresi said it has been a goal of hers to visit as many districts across the state as possible in an effort to hear directly from educators. On Thursday she met with a group of teachers, principals and district officials at Stone Ridge Elementary School and discussed a wide variety of topics, including No Child Left Behind, special education, technology and home schooling.

Pick up a copy of next week’s Gazette to read some of Barresi’s answers to teacher questions and find a video of the Q/A session on Piedmont Today later this week.

Williams removed as city manager following council vote

Clark Williams was removed as city manager on Tuesday following the city council's vote to fire him during Monday's meeting. (Photo by Ben Felder)

A day after the city council voted to remove Clark Williams as its city manager, Williams was asked to vacate city hall on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Mayor Valerie Thomerson, the charter states that the city clerk will assume city manager responsibilities but City Clerk Jennifer Smith said she had not been notified of a change in her job status as of early Tuesday evening.

The city council voted Monday to remove Williams as its city manager and Thomerson called it a decision that should have happened sooner. On Tuesday afternoon Williams was asked to vacate the his office immediately and

“Personally, I thought it was overdue, other than that I do not want to say anything else because this is a personnel issue,” Thomerson said.

Councilmen Hoss Cooley, Wade Johnson and Jeff Davis voted to remove Williams with Larry Gage and Vernon Woods voting against the motion. A vote from the mayor was not necessary but she asked for the meeting minutes to show that if a tie had happened she would have also voted to remove Williams.

The council voted to request that Williams submit his resignation and for the city attorney to draft a letter notifying Williams he has 30 days notice but the mayor presented Williams with a letter on Tuesday requesting his exit immediately. Williams complied with the request. Thomerson said Williams’ contract with the city would be honored, which includes six month severance pay. According to Williams’ contract on file with the city, the city manager is compensated at a yearly salary of $85,000. The contract also states that the employment of the city manager can be terminated without cause.

Before the vote to remove Williams, Gage urged the council to keep its city manager.

“I know there have been some issues between Hoss and Clark and the (Mayor) and Clark but what is happening here is wrong,” Gage said. “We wouldn’t have the infrastructure that we have today (without Williams).”

Woods also showed support for Williams and after the meeting called the council’s vote a “big mistake” that could cost the city dearly.

Cooley made the motion to relieve Williams of his services with the city and Johnson declined to comment on his vote, but Davis, who had been appointed as Ward 3 councilman just three days earlier and had previously server for nearly seven years on the council, said Williams was not a good city manager.

“I never wanted you to be a city manager in the first place,” Davis said. “Most days you are not capable of being a city manager for the city.”

Davis complained that Williams had stalled on moving forward on infrastructure projects and let grants expire but was cut off by the mayor who said it was not appropriate to discuss details about Williams job performance.

Following the vote Williams reminded the council that he had a contract with the city and would not willingly resign. That statement invoked an outburst of applause from some in the audience and three members of the public were removed.

Last week Williams said he had expected to be fired after the mayor placed his job status on the agenda and told him she no longer had trust in him.

“(Thomerson) told me she doesn’t trust me,” Williams said. “I asked what are the reasons and she said they would be discussed on Monday.”

However, details were not discussed on Monday. The most specific reason for letting Williams go was stated by Davis who complained about grants falling through and a stoplight project at the intersection of Edmond Road and Piedmont Road that had not been completed. Williams said he was not sure what Davis was talking about regarding grants and said the reason a stoplight had not yet been installed was because the city does not have the money to complete the project.

According to one city official, who asked not to be identified, much of the disdain for Williams by Thomerson and the council stems from local developer Phil Boevers.

“It’s no secret that (Boevers) does not like Clark because he has really modernized the city and updated ordinance for developers,” the city official said. “Boevers was instrumental in Thomerson’s election and he has pushed for Clark’s removal because it helps his business.”

Boevers did not return a request for comment and has said in the past that he will not speak to the Gazette on the record. Thomerson has also said her decisions as mayor are not influenced by Boevers.

Williams said he felt his removal was political and acknowledged the influence on Boevers.

“It’s nothing but politics and pushing a political agenda,” Williams said. “It’s about a certain developer in town that wants his way and now he’s got it. I wish him luck.

“We are trying to do our best, all I am trying to do is improve the community and I think I have done that, but I serve at the pleasure of the council.”

Another source with the city said there were at least “a few” city officials that have said they would consider resigning if Williams were to be let go. The source cited several conversations with city officials that expressed discomfort with working for the city if Williams were to be let go because they felt it would put the city in a tough position during an important time.

Following Monday’s meeting Thomerson said she did not have a replacement for Williams in mind but that the council would quickly begin the process of looking for a new city manager by posting the job description.

Davis becomes councilman following mayor’s tie-breaking vote

Jeff Davis, Ward 3 Councilman

Jeff Davis was sworn in as Ward 3 councilman on Sept. 23, bringing the Piedmont city council back to full strength with five members.

The agenda for Monday’s council meeting listed a recommendation by Mayor Valerie Thomerson for Davis to become the new Ward 3 councilman and it also asked for other council members to make their own suggestions for a possible appointment. But on Monday Thomerson said she was changing the agenda because Davis had been sworn in three days earlier.

“At the time the agenda was put together that was my thought and it wasn’t until after the agenda was posted that we realized everything was within place for me (to appoint Davis),” Thomerson said.

Ward 3 was left without a councilman following the resignation of Bill Sharp in July. Last month the council voted on a motion to appoint Davis, but the issue was tabled when two council members abstained from voting, claiming their abstentions left the council without a quorum. However, City Attorney Tom Ferguson said after researching the issue it was his determination that the abstaining votes were the same as no votes, meaning the council had tied at 2-2 with the mayor casting the tiebreaking vote last month.

The Gazette reviewed the audio recording of the August meeting and it shows that following the vote by the council on Davis’ appointment, Thomerson said she was voting in affirmation of Davis to break the tie.

“It was within my authority to do it,” Thomerson said about appointing Davis.

Davis, who has seven years experience on the council and most recently served last year, was vocal in his first meeting back and said he decided to accept the appointment because he wanted to help Piedmont move forward.

“(The council) was at a stalemate with a 2-2 vote and something needed to be done,” Davis said. “I have experience on here and I know how the city operates.”

Davis said he had also grown frustrated at the divisions that had taken place recently in the city.

“I hate to see a city our size in such turmoil, it just hardens me,” Davis said. “My desire is that we can have a peaceful city…and go forward. We have so many opportunities and I hope that my fellow councilmen will accept me as a councilman.”

While Davis said he was excited to join the council some members questioned the validity of his appointment. Vernon Woods and Larry Gage, who both abstained from voting last month, said they did not believe the mayor could follow through on the appointment of Davis.

“We need an election for this council position,” Gage said. “Otherwise you are dictating who (serves in Ward 3)”

Ferguson told the council that his legal opinion was that the mayor had the authority to appoint Davis to the council because she had cast the tie-breaking vote last month.

“I would like to remind everyone that I am the city attorney…I am not here as a judge,” Ferguson said. “I merely advise on legal issues that are raised.

“I have done an awful lot of research into this issue…the charter gives the vote to the mayor to break the tie. That’s my advice to you, you all make the decision that you want to make.”

Gage said every vote that Davis made would be “questionable” if his appointment was ever challenged in court.

Piedmont opens district play with 49-20 win over Elgin

Christian Foster steps in front of an Elgin pass for an interception and returns it for a touchdown during Piedmont's 49-20 win over the Owls in the opening of district play. (Photo by Greg Evans)

District win number one is in the books for the Piedmont Wildcats, as they made the trip down to Elgin on Friday and came back with a 49-20 victory.

Piedmont (2-2) came out slow against the Owls, struggling to contain Elgin’s read option attack. Elgin marched down the field and came away with the first score of its opening drive of the game.

Elgin was able to cling onto that lead until Cassius Calhoun broke free on a long score with just under three minutes to go in the opening frame. Collin Bricker would add a rushing score of his own with just under 40 seconds left in the first quarter to give Piedmont its first lead of the game and the Wildcats wouldn’t look back.

Piedmont’s defense stepped up and adjusted to Elgin’s rushing game in the second quarter. They were able to force the Owl offense into numerous three-and-outs and were able to steadily change the course of the game. Piedmont would take a 21-7 lead into halftime after Bricker and Christian Foster hooked up for a diving score. Dylan Broyles was the go-to receiver against Elgin and was constantly looked to on crucial third downs and opened up Foster for the score.

The Wildcats came out of the break and struggled with some miscues early, but a steady passing attack set up another Calhoun rushing score. Calhoun would rush for a team high 200 yards and reached pay dirt four times against the Owls.

Piedmont and Elgin would trade turnovers late in the third, but Calhoun and the rest of the Wildcats were too much in the fourth quarter. Add in a Hunter Kirton interception and a Foster pick-six, and the night belonged to the blue and gold.

Bricker threw for 165 yards on 10 completions, with a score and two interceptions. He also added 65 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Foster caught four passes for 53 yards and a score. Broyles caught five passes for 80 yards. Austin Ray caught Bricker’s two other passes and gained 24 yards.

“Like I said last week, that’s the team I saw all week in practice,” Coach Craig Church said. “They came out prepared and different kids continue to step up. (Hunter Kirton) had a huge interception, Foster had a pick that went for a score, Bricker played well and our tailback had a great night. It’s starting to spread, making plays is getting infectious. Our defense allowed a couple big plays, but they played extremely well. I couldn’t be more excited about our team. It’s exciting to think back to the Kingfisher scrimmage and see how far we’ve come.”

With the win against Elgin, Piedmont moves to 2-2 on the season and 1-0 in district 4A-1. Now, the team looks forward to next week when they host a tough Clinton team.

“We’re going to keep this win with us for one day,” Jared Slavens said. “We’re going to go back to work and focus on Clinton. Last week, we watched a bunch of film. We knew (Elgin’s) formations. Our coaches help us so much, they spend (so many hours) watching film and breaking things down. They told us what to do and what to do, and we did it.”

Football Review: Week 4

Ben Felder and Greg Evans review last week’s win over Western Heights and preview the start of district play for Piedmont.

VIDEO: Piedmont Football Insider

Piedmont Football Insider is a new weekly show that goes one-on-one with Wildcat players to talk about last week’s game and look ahead to the next match up on the field.

PHOTOS: Piedmont students take school spirit to the halls

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

The halls of Piedmont High School took visitors around the world this week.  The halls were decorated to correspond with various worldly locations in celebration of this year’s homecoming theme “Coast-to-Coast, Town-to-Town, We’re the ‘baddest’ Cats around.”

High schoolers also came to school every day last week dressed in a different theme.

“Monday was pajama day, Tuesday was nerd day, Wednesday was fake injury day, Thursday was ‘80’s day and Friday was blue and gold or homecoming shirt day,” Bailey Burgess said. “The Student Council came up with a list of ideas for dress up days and voted on the ones we thought the most people would dress up for.”

The whole idea behind the dress up days was for students to show school spirit and get excited for the football team’s first home game. However, the main rally point for school spirit during homecoming week at Piedmont is the hall decorating contest.

“It’s a way to get everyone pumped up,” Abby McBride said. “We come together to work on these projects and support the school. It’s a big competition.”

“All classes work on their individual walls,” Bryce Ewy said.

This year’s theme was places, to go along with the homecoming theme. The freshman decorated their hall like France, the sophomores like Jamaica, the juniors like Australia, the seniors like Greece and the Student Council decorated their hallway like various United States landmarks. Each of the hallways incorporated iconic locations or ideas from the theme country, but each threw in a Wildcat twist.

The Student Council leadership students explained that the classes worked on the hallways all weekend long.

“Most groups started decorating at 9 a.m. on Saturday,” Carsen Young said. “As long as they have a sponsor here, they can work on decorating their hallway. Everyone seemed to be more involved this year.”

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

After the classes finished their hallways, teachers voted on the winning hallway and the winner was announced at the homecoming pep assembly on Friday. The seniors took home first place for their decorations. Juniors came in second, freshmen came in third and sophomores took fourth.

“We love seeing everyone so involved,” Burgess said.

“It’s cool to see so many people come up,” McBride said. “It’s great to see the freshman come up and show that they are willing to be be involved.”

“My favorite part of (homecoming week) is all the older people who come back to see what the classes have done this year,” Ewy said.

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Piedmont High School students decorated school hallways during Homecoming week. This year’s theme was “Coast to Coast, Town to Town, We’re the Baddest Cats Around.” (Photo by Greg Evans)

Recall petition certified, February the earliest an election could take place

The city of Piedmont has certified a petition submitted Thursday that seeks to force a recall election for Ward 4 Councilman Hoss Cooley.

According to city staff, the petition contained 218 signatures with a total of 188 signatures from registered voters needed. During the certification process 12 names were removed because they were not legible or did not match official voting records.

The certified petition will now be sent to the city council for review an election date will be set. However, the earliest an election could take place would be Feb. 14, 2012. City Clerk Jennifer Smith said she had spoken with officials at the state election board who said the deadline to file for a November election had already passed and the Oklahoma Legislature does not allow elections in December and January, making February the next available election date, which would be two months before Cooley’s council seat is up for reelection in April 2012.

PHOTOS: Faces from Friday’s Homecoming game

(L-R) Natalie Leach and Abby DeJar, both sixth-graders at Piedmont Middle School, at Friday’s Homecoming football game. (Photo by Ben Felder)

Nathan Morse, a Piedmont sixth-grader, at Friday’s homecoming football game. (Photo by Ben Felder)

(L-R) P.H.S. students Lucas Richert, Lindsay Yeager, Marshall Wallace and Cody White at last Friday’s Homecoming football game. (Photo by Ben Felder)

(L-R) Seniors Kaylee Yeager, Taylor Ford and Johnathan Cox. (Photo by Ben Felder)

Sarah Largent holds Madeline Hampton during Friday’s game. It was the first high school football game for Madeline who is 4-months-old. (Photo by Ben Felder)

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