When this council and mayor said it was time for a change in leadership at the city manager’s desk I cautioned that it might not be the right move but believed these city leaders – which were put into office by a majority of voters – deserved a chance to show they were right.
I still don’t necessarily agree with the way the firing of Clark Williams went down and I’m not fully prepared to say it was the right decision but the early (very early) returns on the move seem promising.
The Jim Crosby era in Piedmont is still in its infancy but he has been here long enough to show that things at city hall were not all roses under Williams and there are some early signs that the council could move further under Crosby, if for no other reason than a higher level of trust.
During a recent council workshop Crosby presented some of the challenges facing Piedmont, which include contracts for water and sanitation service that negatively impact the city, no clear plan on how to move the fire department and police department forward in terms of equipment and staff, and the recent discovery that a fire hydrant was improperly installed (see page 3A) with no answer on who dropped the ball.
Each one of these issues is the equivalent of a football team failing to snap the ball before the end of the play clock. They aren’t disastrous on their own, but after a while you start to wonder about the coach.
Another early benefit with having Crosby at the helm is this council and mayor trust him. I’m not saying there were reasons they shouldn’t have trusted Williams, but the reality was many of them didn’t. I had heard Williams mention several times that a general obligation bond might be a solution to Piedmont’s poor roads, but I can’t imagine the majority of this council and mayor going along with bonds if it were to have been proposed by him. The moment Williams would have mentioned the word “bond” the council would have been in a deadlock. But when Crosby makes the proposal it is met with much more openness.
All the facts concerning Crosby’s bond proposal are not yet known, which makes it difficult to say this is a good idea. But it deserves some close thought and ultimately probably deserves to reach the ballot box. A well thought out and researched bond could very well bring Piedmont’s roads into the 21st Century but it’s hard to imagine this getting accomplished under Williams’ watch because of the lack of trust that had existed.
This mayor and many council members said there were problems under Williams’ watch but the problem was they wouldn’t clearly say what those problems were. It was easy for the public to not see any clear grounds for termination when the previous city manager was receiving awards from the county while his opponents on the council were simply saying he was no good.
Well, those opponents are beginning to define their case against Williams by highlighting specific issues with the way the city was run. However, the hard work in city government is not identifying problems, it’s fixing them and that is still a goal yet to be met when it comes to repairing roads, improving infrastructure and even getting an agreement done with Williams Foods grocery store.
Am I convinced that a change at city manager was necessary last year? Not quite, but let’s just say this council and mayor said it was necessary and I’m not entirely convinced they won’t end up being right in the end.