Mayor Sandy Stimpson announced two new directors and an advisor during a press conference Jan. 24 and also confirmed the retirement of a longtime city employee, Executive Director of Public Services John Bell, who has been with the city for 20 years. The retirement will be effective March 1
Stimpson appointed a new executive director of public services, a director of information technology and a senior advisor.

Current CitiSmart Coordinator William Harkins Jr. will take Bell’s place.

“(Bell and Harkins) will work together during the transition,” Stimpson said. “Bill brings outstanding leadership skills, integrity and innovative thinking to an area of city government that touches the lives of every Mobilian. He will be critical to our efforts to improve accountability and responsiveness as we seek to bring a higher level of service to our citizens.”

Harkins is a native of Mobile, attending St. Dominic’s grade school, Davidson High School and receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Alabama before being commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1985. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree in 1997 from the University of Oklahoma and a Master of Theology degree from Spring Hill College in 2012.

His military awards include the Bronze Star Medal, four Meritorious Service Medals, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

He and his wife, Maria, have been married 26 years and have one daughter, Savannah who is currently attending the University of South Alabama. Harkins will assume his new job immediately.

The new executive director of public services, who has been employed by the city for more than seven years, said he is eager to work with the mayor and council.

“If my parents were alive, I know they would be excited. My father was a professor of political science at the University of South Alabama for a very long time. I think half the lawyers and politicians around here my dad taught,” Harkins said. “One of those politicians being Councilman Fred Richardson, who is the chairman of the public service committee. I’m excited to work with one of my dad’s former students.”

Stimpson also filled a newly created position — director of information technologies.

Augustus Bramble Jr. will be the director of information technologies beginning Feb. 7. He currently serves as Senior Manager of Infrastructure, Security and Communications for ThyssenKrupp – Outokumpu Stainless USA, as a contract employee for NetPoint ITS. He previously served as Senior Corporate Business Area IT Manager for Best Buy Co. in Richfield, Minn., and as Director of Technology for Abbott Systems in Daphne.

Bramble received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Spring Hill College in Mobile and was named the top technology student in the state of Alabama.

Stimpson created the position because he said the current IT system for the city is antiquated. Bramble, he said, is the person who can change that.

“Augustus is a proven technology leader who is ideally suited to help us bring our outdated IT systems into the 21st century,” Stimpson said. “His business experience combined with his high level of detailed technology expertise make him a world-class addition to city government.”

Bramble outlined some areas in which he will work to improve the city’s IT system.

“With enthusiasm I will move forward to help implement the mayor’s vision of one Mobile by delivering innovative technology solutions that support city departments and by delivering services to the citizens of this community,” he said. “The key areas I will address will be maximizing the city’s information technology value by providing stable technology and network infrastructure, driving innovative and performance improvement to enhance the city’s information services and increasing the availability of information.”

Stimpson also announced the hiring of Jena Longo Berson as a Senior Advisor.

Berson joins the City of Mobile from Washington, D.C. where she most recently served as Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She previously held the position of Director of Communications for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Clear Channel Government Affairs.

She previously served in staff positions for U.S. Sens. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, John Breaux and Ben Nelson. Prior to her work in Washington, D.C. she served in the Baton Rouge, La., Mayor-President’s office where her primary role was communications.

Berson is originally from New Orleans and received a B.A. from Louisiana State University. Her husband Michael is a Mobile native and they will be relocating back to Mobile in the coming months. Berson joined the administration on Jan. 21.

The new senior advisor said she and her husband have been looking to move back to the South, but were waiting for the right opportunity. She hopes that inspires others to come back home.

“I hope that this serves as an example for all the Mobilians who might be living somewhere else that there are opportunities here and this mayor is committed to that,” she said. “More Mobilians will come back home hopefully and for the ones that are here, this city is going through a great transition. It’s a great time to be a part of this.”

Harkin and Bramble will each be paid $110,000 annually while Berson will earn $70,000.

Stimpson concluded saying he is excited about the newest additions to his team.

“These talented and accomplished individuals will be valuable additions to my administration as we tackle the important challenges facing the City of Mobile,” said Mayor Stimpson. “I look forward to working with them as we continue our mission of making Mobile the safest, most business and family-friendly city in America by 2020.”