Just two weeks remain until Sandy Stimpson takes office as the next mayor of Mobile, and he announced several changes coming for the city during a meeting with local media on Oct. 21.
“Although after the campaign I said there would be a nationwide search for a new police chief, from what we have learned since then, we are going to change that. We have changed the search to be for a Public Safety Executive Director,” Stimpson said.
That doesn’t mean the role of police chief in the city of Mobile would be a thing of the past. Stimpson said there would be an appointment from within for the chief’s position announced sometime soon. Then the police and fire chiefs would report to the Public Safety Executive Director.
The concept isn’t new to Mobile. The position was held by Richard Cashdollar from 1994 to 2005, but has been unfilled since Cashdollar left.
While the appointment of a new police chief will come quickly, another change might take years before it is fully implemented.
Stimpson said one of the biggest issues the city has is with its current computer programs.
“We are way behind on the software we use. It makes us vulnerable. It is imperative to identify what we need and find a way to pay for it,” he said. “We can’t operate without timely and accurate information.
“It’s a testament really to the city employees who have been working with what they have and to do what they have done.”
The mayor-elect noted the system would have to be put in to place over time due to training needs and costs.
Currently, Stimpson said, the city is using programs that were never designed to work together. City programmers have written code to patch the systems together and that’s just one of the ways it makes the city vulnerable. The software issues pose not only security risks, Stimpson said, but also present an issue if a person, who knew how the patch-worked system worked, left.
In February 2012, three people who identified themselves as part of the Anonymous movement hacked into the city of Mobile’s website.
They claimed to have accessed more than 46,000 people’s social security numbers, full legal names and dates of birth. City spokeswoman Barbara Drummond said the hackers got into the amnesty program server, which does contain sensitive data.
The Amnesty Program allowed residents to pay off delinquent municipal fines for traffic violations and other specific offenses without the additional fees for failure to pay. The list was complied for people to check online if they were able to be a part of the program.
Another change is coming for the Information Technology department — a new executive position.
The position of executive director of information technology will be created as a mayoral appointment. Stimpson said a person has not been chosen as of yet.
“This person will be responsible for maintaining and overseeing IT,” he said. “It’s a position that I feel should be under the mayor’s administration.”
Stimpson is also streamlining and cleaning up the city employee organizational chart. He gave an example of why this is needed.
“When you look at the current chart, it doesn’t flow like you would expect it. Here’s an example, which is maybe extreme, but for instance, an employee not working in finance would for some reason be reporting to the finance department,” he said.
The mayor-elect is also looking at creating an audit committee. The external group would look at the city’s finances frequently.
In addition to organizational changes coming, Stimpson announced plans for his inauguration.
On Nov. 2, Stimpson will hold a communitywide clean up day, which he plans to make into an annual event.
“This year we have chosen to focus on Dauphin Island Parkway, specifically starting at the senior citizens center,” he said. “We did some work over there already and found an area with an overgrown basketball court, playground and baseball field.”
Sunday, Nov. 3 will be a focused day of prayer. Stimpson wants all religious leaders to unite their congregations in prayer for the citizens, city and future.
Nov. 4 marks the day Stimpson will be sworn into office. At 9 a.m., he will officially take office. At 7 p.m., a ceremonial swearing in for the mayor and councilors will be held at the convention center.
On Nov. 5, the new mayor will start having meetings with city employees.
“These town hall meetings with the employees will give them the opportunity to ask questions and for me to hear from them,” Stimpson said. “It’s important for the city employees to be in touch with me and for me to be able to empower them to be able to do their jobs.”