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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.

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