MOUNT CARMEL — On Tuesday, the Mount Carmel Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed upon the replacements for two retiring department heads, including the city manager, who will be hired from the outside, and the police chief, who will be promoted from within.
Longtime Mount Carmel Police Department Chief Jeff Jackson told the BMA on Tuesday he expects to retire around the same time as City Recorder Marian Sandidge, in about 14 months.
As a result, Mayor Chris Jones recommended Tuesday that current Assistant Police Chief George Copas be promoted to chief, albeit at the same pay and still under the supervision of Jackson, who remains public safety director.
Copas has been an officer on the MCPD since 1999. He earned an associates degree in criminal justice from Walters State and previously served as a detective before being named assistant chief three years ago.
Jones said that will give the board more than a year to evaluate Copas' performance and decide if he will continue on as chief and public safety director when Jackson retires.
"(Jackson) will still have control, so that our maybe future police chief, if he does a good job at it, can maybe take the reins, get his name out there, get his ties into the community and start learning the things he needs to learn and doing the things he needs to do," Jones told the board. "This will also alleviate some stress and some of the responsibilities that Jeff has right now."
Jones added, "This is just interim to see if he (Copas) can run that department like a police chief should."
Public safety director oversees both the police department and fire department.
Jackson told the board Tuesday that he is currently focused on re-equipping the fire department in hopes of maintaining the city's low ISO rating of four when it is evaluated next year.
But there are tasks as dictated either by state law or city policy that only the police chief can perform, which distracts him from his current fire department efforts.
"The police department is actually in pretty good shape," Jackson said. "It's the fire department that I need to spend a little more time on, getting it up to par. When we first started the police chief/public safety director, we didn't have these problems. (The MCPD) was to the point we were winning national awards, the fire department was to the point we were the best trained anywhere. Now we're down to the point where we're getting by, but we need to get everything (in the fire department) shored back up."
The board voted 5-2 in favor of appointing Copas chief, with aldermen Margaret Christian and Jennifer Williams opposed.
As for the city manager position, the BMA voted to authorize current City Manager Gary Lawson to negotiate with the first of two candidates that the board interviewed last week. The name of that candidate was withheld over concerns that his current employer would object to him interviewing for another job and fire him.
The BMA agreed to hire the candidate as an assistant city manager for no more than $50,000 and to have him trained to take over the duties of both the city manager, when Lawson retires, and city recorder when Sandidge retires.
The new city manager won't have a contract and will serve as an at-will employee under the board's supervision.