If you’re keeping score at home, Mobile has had two police chiefs and zero fire chiefs during Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s first term in office.
Newly minted Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste officially became Stimpson’s second police chief in nearly four years. Former Chief James Barber was recently named the city’s new executive director of public safety.
Despite the issue’s slow movement, the administration does expect to have a list of fire chief candidates ready soon, Barber said following a Mobile City Council pre-conference meeting Tuesday. Barber said he received resumes from 11 internal candidates and one retiree by the April 10 deadline. Each candidate will also submit a strategic plan by Friday, April 14.
At that point, candidates will be considered by a screening committee made up of Barber, Montgomery Fire Chief Milton Jordan, Dan Lumpkin, a strategic consultant and one other member, Barber said.
Barber said the committee will be reviewing the resumes and strategic plans of the candidates, looking for a prospective chief whose vision fits in well with the department’s resources.
Council President Gina Gregory said she was encouraged the administration was making progress in choosing a fire chief. She said she knows it has been an ongoing issue within the department.
“I’m glad it’s on the fast track,” she said. “The sooner we get someone in place, the better.”
Councilwoman Bess Rich, chairwoman of the body’s public safety committee, said a chief is a critical component to running the department.
“A department our size requires a chief at the helm,” she said. “I look forward to them giving us a name.”
When he assumed office, Stimpson nominated Randy Smith as chief of the Mobile Fire Rescue Department. Smith was never confirmed by the council and eventually Stimpson replaced him with Billy Pappas, who is currently serving in the chief’s role. Members of Stimpson’s administration have previously stated they don’t believe there are enough council votes to confirm Pappas either.
Battiste was sworn in by Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Edmund G. Naman in the ceremonial courtroom at Government Plaza on Tuesday. Battiste repeated the oath while his wife, Angela Battiste, and his mother, Patricia Battiste, looked on.
Stimpson said Battiste has the ability to get things done as police chief and has respect for everyone.
“He is the perfect person at this time in the history of Mobile to be police chief,” Stimpson said at the swearing-in ceremony. “We’re fortunate to have him.”
During Tuesday’s council meeting, the body unanimously approved an ordinance that would require any new signs placed in parks or on buildings display the city’s official seal.
Gregory said the ordinance would prevent the turnover of logos on signs on more permanent structures, such as park signs and buildings, whenever the government changes hands.
The council and Stimpson have been somewhat at odds over an official city logo in the past. Stimpson opted for a green “M” with half of an upside-down fleur-de-lis, while councilors approved a confetti blast with the slogan “Born to Celebrate” underneath.
The council Tuesday also approved two contracts and gave Stimpson the authority to accept a grant to begin construction on the first phase of the Three Mile Creek Greenway Initiative. Construction would begin near Tricentennial Park and continue to West Ridge Road.
The cost of the first phase is roughly $1.2 million, although $386,000 of the money comes in the form of a matching grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The contracts for the project will pay $447,647 to James H. Adams & Son Construction and $40,000 to Dorsey and Dorsey Engineering.
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