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County hires Alabama resident as new administrator

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By Alice Du Pont

The Gadsden County Board of Commissioners voted (3-2) during the regular meeting Tuesday night to offer the position of county administrator to Johnny D. Williams of Northport, Ala.

"I have talked to people who know him and I would like to recommend that we hire Mr. Johnny Williams as our county administrator, unless you have someone else and you can get three votes," said commission chairman Eugene Lamb. Commissioners Doug Croley and Gene Morgan supported Lamb's recommendation.

“This is beginning to look a lot like what we were running from. It looks like the decision has been made. I'm disappointed, very disappointed, that I have to sit here with people we don't know. We've let this county down. It's time out for people coming into our county. It will cost us millions (in payouts and lawsuits). If you want to get someone you can control, go ahead and control him," said Commissioner Sherrie Taylor.

Taylor said that 90 percent of the people she talked with when she campaigned for her commission seat wanted to know why people from outside the county were continually hired.

She, along with Commissioner Brenda Holt, voted against hiring Williams. Both said the chairman gave them the impression that the second highest ranking candidate on the previously presented list would be offered the position. That person was Robert Presnell, the county's current road and bridge director.

Lamb said after the meeting that he never said the next person would be considered but said if no agreement could be made with the first person recommended, it would go to the next nominee, not the next person.

"I didn't nominate anyone, I made a recommendation. Anybody on that board could have made a recommendation," Lamb said.

"Commissioner Taylor and I don't agree on a lot of things but we agree on this. You didn't like people with Tallahassee addresses but you like someone with an Alabama address. This is illogical to go outside the county but now you have gone outside the state. I can't support this idea that came out of nowhere, out of the dark and out of the sunshine. We haven't even seen this person. Mr. Presnell was second on the list," Holt said.

Williams, 63, worked as city manager for Gautier, Miss. from June 2007 to March 2008. Before that, from November 2004 to January 2007, he was city manager for the city of Hampton, Ga., according to his resume.

"I have personally talked to Mr. Williams and people who know him and I was very impressed," Lamb said after the meeting.

Gautier is a city of 11,526 residents with the average household income of $44,892. The city is located on U.S. Highway 90 along the Gulf Coast in Jackson County, 19 miles east of Boloxi, Miss. The population is 66.2 percent white, 27.7 percent black and 3.2 percent Hispanic. Gautier is a relatively new city, incorporated in 1986, which encompasses 12.2 square miles.

"I am well-versed in all aspects of local government. Over a period of more than 30 years I have served as an urban and regional planning director, interim chief of police, civic center director, recreation supervisor, supervisor of public works, landfill, countywide water system and garbage collection and fire administrator, with experience in finance and budgeting, purchasing, municipal court, building codes and other functions of local government," Williams wrote in a letter accompanying his resume to the selection committee.