City hires Faulkner as chief of staff
The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen and mayor passed a motion to hire Rep. John Faulkner as chief of staff at a recent working session.
The split decision, a 2-2 vote with alderman Bernita Fountain Lowe abstaining, won the day when Mayor Kelvin Buck broke the tie vote.
Aldermen Lennell Lucas and Mark Miller voted in favor of the measure while aldermen Tim Liddy and Christy Owens opposed.
Faulkner will be paid $25,000 a year without benefits.
“It’s more for the constituents’ concerns,” Buck said. “They have a lot of issues they want taken care of right away.”
Buck said he works seven days a week and cannot take care of lots of citizens’ requests in a timely manner.
He said Faulkner’s role would be similar to Willie Mallory’s job as liaison at the Holly Springs Utility Department or like the late Ruben Pegues who served under the late mayor Eddie Lee Smith.
“It’s a way we can answer the concerns of our residents,” the mayor said.
Buck said as mayor he often goes to at least two events in the community a day on the weekends.
“A lot of people call me out for events on weekends,” he said. “I’m somewhere every weekend.”
Faulkner will help the mayor with staff and citizen relations.
“He works for me and the board and does what we want done,” Buck said.
Lucas, who made the motion, said the main reason the city needs more help is the mayor is spread pretty thin with so many projects to manage. And the mayor often has conflicting speaking engagements, and Faulkner can cover for the mayor when he is at a separate event.
Faulkner will also be a liaison with the community and help the mayor with duties. The city has some large projects it is working on, such as the annexation study, cast-iron pipe replacements citywide and gas expansion hopes.
“I just know that a lot of times at the end of the week, we have days off, but the mayor is at so many weekend events. He will pass along the will of the mayor when the mayor has to be somewhere. Just like I help out with the street department, but I’m off Tuesday through Friday to be involved in projects. It is not unusual for me to work with a department head.”
Miller, who seconded Lucas’ motion, cited his reasons for supporting the measure.
“First of all, the mayor requested it,” he said. “I feel like when a department head makes a request for help, we should grant it if at all possible. When things don’t work out, it comes back to bite them.”
Second, the job is part-time, Miller said.
Third, when the board of aldermen hired Bill Stone as general manager of the Holly Springs Utility Department, there was some blowback. But as it turned out, he said, Stone has been successful in working with employees, keeping the department stable, and brings other knowledge he garnered while in the Mississippi Senate to the table.
“The mayor is not just a figurehead, he’s working hard,” Miller said. “Eddie Lee Smith had Ruben Pegues as his chief of staff. If the mayor says he needs help, I believe him. If he is comfortable with Faulkner, I think we ought to give him people he’s comfortable with.”
Fountain Lowe said she abstained because of a possible conflict of interest. Faulkner is her brother-in-law, she said.
“I recused myself from the discussion and the vote,” she said.
Liddy explained why he voted against the measure.
“After expressing my concerns and opposition to the hiring of a ‘chief of staff’ for the mayor of Holly Springs, I voted against the motion for two main reasons,” Liddy said. “I believe the position is not needed and I warned that it would appear that we are creating a position for a friend.
“This opposition has nothing to do with Mr. Faulkner, individually, because I do consider him a friend. But, the fact is that this was a newly-created position and we did not look at any other candidates. But, having said that, I am a team player and I will work with Mr. Faulkner and the mayor as I always have, since this is the will of the board.”
Owens also provided her reason for opposing this measure.
“I understand that Mayor Buck has a demanding schedule and has conflicts from time to time, however, alderman-at-large Tim Liddy was elected by the board of aldermen to be the vice-mayor and represent the city during the mayor’s absence at meetings, political, social and economic functions. This is my main reason for opposing the motion.”