In their first official act as Petal’s new administration, incoming Mayor Tony Ducker and the Petal Board of Aldermen have reappointed all city and department heads – other than the Parks and Recreation Department, where longtime parks employee Josh Young takes over for former director Brian Hall.
The appointments were made at a July 1 special- called meeting of the board, where members voted unanimously on every item except for the Parks and Recreation Department. Alderman-at-Large Mike Lott and Ward 6 Alderman Craig Bullock provided the votes against that measure, making that a 5-2 vote.
Department heads are as follows:
•Mayor Pro Tem: Ward 2 Alderman Steve Stringer.
•City Attorney: Rocky Eaton.
•Police chief: Matthew Hiatt.
•Fire chief: Joe Hendry.
•Public Works Department director: Mike Trest.
•City clerk: Melissa Martin.
•Court clerk: Michelle Strebeck.
•Building Department director: Amy Heath.
•Parks and Recreation Department director: Josh Young.
•City Engineer: John Weeks with Shows, Dearman & Waits.
•Municipal Judge: Michael Reed.
•Judge Pro Tem: Zachary Vaughn.
“I think we’ve got a good team in place,” Ducker said. “That’s one of the toughest decisions that you have to make, is not only putting the right people on the bus, but having them in the right seat.
“I believe there’s a lot of energy – I know there is on the board side – and speaking with the department heads, there is a lot of energy to take care of the tasks we have before us. We’re a growing city, so we’re going through some growing pains, and it’s important that we don’t was a lot of time and that we’re as efficient as we can be, not just with revenue but with time.”
Hall, who took over as Parks and Recreation director after Tom Hardges Jr. retired in 2018, said he feels there was no justification for him to not be reappointed to his position. Hall said he and his wife had plans to retire in the next couple of years, but he was waiting to complete work on some upcoming soccer fields in the city.
Hall also said he is of the mind that his push for the proposed 3 percent sales tax increase at Petal restaurants – which would bring in an extra $750,000 annually for the Parks and Recreation Department and other matters – is a major reason he was not reappointed.
“Please don't blame your aldermen; from what I am told they had no part in not reappointing me, and this is solely Mayor Ducker's choice,” Hall posted on Facebook. “It has been my pleasure to serve this community and to coach many of your children. I trust the aldermen will make good choices for everything that they have a vote on.”
Bullock said he fully supports Young and thinks he will do a great job. However, he voted against the appointment because he felt the Parks and Recreation Department is already headed in the right direction.
“Even in spite of some very significant budget cuts and hurdles that have been placed in that department’s way, it’s been thriving,” Bullock said. “Our relationship with (the Petal Sports Association) has healed over the last few years, and has gotten to a good and healthy place.
“The city is more profitable from our partnership with PSA today then we’ve ever been. And so with all those factors, I personally just did not feel like we needed a change in that department. But I feel good about the future of the department, and I will be Mr. Young’s biggest fan and support him, and I look forward to growth and great things in our Parks and Recreation Department.”
Lott also said his vote against the matter was simply because he did not see a need to change leadership in the department.
“As a Petal resident, I’ve been impressed as I’ve noticed growth in our parks and recreation areas, and I see how that has been a positive influence for our city in bringing people into the city for events, which helps some of our businesses,” he said. “For the year that I’ve been on the Petal Board of Aldermen, I’ve not noticed anything from the current Parks and Recreation director that suggests a need for change.
“I’ve also spoken with some within the department who speak highly of the current leadership. In light of the board’s vote last night, I will be supporting the new Parks and Recreation director and will be looking forward to continued growth and a positive future for what this department can do to benefit city growth.”