Morrow Mayor Joseph Burke, left, and City Manager Jeff Eady share a laugh after Eady was recognized for 30 years of service to the city Tuesday. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)
MORROW — Jeff Eady has a secret which isn’t widely known in Morrow outside of its government.
The city manager, who most residents only see wearing a suit and tie, likes to spend his weekends riding a “hog.” A Harley-Davidson “hog” that is.
City Clerk Evyonne Browning said Eady goes through a transformation. Out goes the work attire and in comes the jeans and T-shirt-type apparel.
“He loves Harley-Davidsons,” said Browning. “It’s like he’s a totally different person on the weekends.”
Given Eady’s affinity for Harleys, city officials thought it was natural to use a Harley-Davidson theme for a cake they had made this week to celebrate his 30th anniversary with the city. His official anniversary was Aug. 8, but city leaders held a reception for him Tuesday after the city council meeting.
Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke also presented Eady with a 30-year employee pin during the council meeting.
In his time with the city, Eady has seen a lot of change. He recounted some of those many changes in his office Wednesday.
For starters, he’s worked for five mayors, seven city managers and “countless” council members.
When he began working for the city’s public works department in 1983, he was one of two employees in the department and their job was to keep city hall and Morrow’s sole park looking nice. Their tools were a tool box, a couple of weed eaters and a Snapper lawnmower.
The public works department now has 10 full-time employees and there are just as many parks and one pathway walking trail system for them to maintain. Their staff includes a director whose expertise is in information technology.
“Sometimes the time is just right,” said Eady. “You’re in the right place at the right time, and I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was able to grow up with the city, so to speak, and was offered numerous opportunities to help build the infrastructure of the city of Morrow.”
Eady became public works director around 1989 and city manager in 2009.
One of his earliest memories of working for the city is of the mass confusion that used to reign in the back parking lot of City Hall when the police department and the fire department had office space back there. Public works employees also had to park back there.
Fire trucks, patrol cars, ambulances and public works vehicles came and went, all at the same time, in the parking lot.
“Everything was at 1500 Morrow Road and the back lot was an absolute madhouse in the mornings,” said Eady. “It was a traffic jam of its own, trying to get police cars out on the street, public works vehicles out on the street, the fire trucks out and inspected every morning.
“We started scheduling public works to come in an hour early before the fire department, and the shift changes for the fire department and the police department were staggered so we could start getting everybody out in a little more organized fashion,” he continued.
Eventually, the city purchased an old Clayton County Water Authority building next to First Baptist Church of Morrow, and moved the police and public works departments into it in the 1990s. The renovations and move of the departments to their new home was a task of which Eady said he is proud.
But he also reflected on the opportunities previous city managers gave him for professional development. It began with a system of rickety air conditioning units that were fickle about when they wanted to work at city hall, he said.
“This is an older building, it’s an old A&P building and a drug store, and it still had the old A/C units on top and we were constantly having A/C problems,” said Eady. “I’m not sure which city manager it was, but it may have been Tom Hall who said, ‘Would you like to go to A/C school?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’
“So I took off down to Griffin Tech and took two years of night classes, got my A/C degree and started climbing up on the roof, fixing A/Cs,” he continued.
He said other former city managers, such as John Parker and John Lampl, also gave him opportunities to further his professional development through education.
Police Chief Chris Leighty said Eady is the kind of manager employees can work side-by-side with, instead of just working for him. Eady hired Leighty last year.
“Jeff is always open and any time I have a question, there’s no question that is too little or too stupid and I’ve always felt supported,” said Leighty. “That’s a true blessing.”
Browning added, “He cares about the employees who work for the city and when he says, ‘Do the right thing,’ he means it.”
That stands in stark contrast to the way employees used to talk about his predecessor, John Lampl, who was accused of micromanaging and harassment in his later years as city manager.
“That’s not my style,” said Eady. “I learned a long time ago that you need good people and you need professionals running your departments and we have that. Once you have professionals that you completely trust to run your departments in that way, basically the best thing to do is to stay out of their way and help them only when they need your help.”
Eady said he picked up bits and pieces of the different management styles his predecessors used. One of the things he said he learned was that people matter.
“You quickly learn that whether it’s at work or at home, it’s all built on relationships and you build those relationships throughout your whole entire career,” he said.
And as for his future, Eady said he doesn’t have any plans to hop on a Harley and ride into retirement anytime soon.
“I’m not in a position where I can retire yet,” he said. “There’s too much work left to be done.”