MORROW — The Morrow City Council turned to police Chief Chris Leighty on Tuesday to provide temporary leadership for the city while a search is held to find outgoing City Manager Jeff Eady’s replacement.
To his surprise, Leighty found out at the council meeting this week that he was to be named the interim city manager. Leighty said he didn’t know the council was considering him for the temporary job, but he didn’t turn it down when city leaders offered it to him.
“Chief, did anybody even ask you to do that?” asked Mayor J.B. Burke before calling for a vote on the appointment.
“No sir, but I understand I was just asked,” Leighty responded. “To be quite honest, I’m very humbled by the opportunity It’s a great city with great people. We have great citizens and you have a great group of people who work here, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the Morrow team.”
Leighty will take over the week of Thanksgiving from Eady, who will become Forest Park’s public works director in December. He will serve as both city manager and police chief until Dec. 31.
Council members indicated they were only giving Leighty a one-month stint in the interim position because half of the people on the four-person council will change Jan. 1. This will give the new council an opportunity to decide whether they want to continue the appointment into 2014 while they look for Eady’s permanent replacement.
A year and a half ago, when Leighty was hired as police chief, he said his dream had always been to lead a small town police department. Now, it’s unclear if he will stay on that path or be lured onto a different path by his new appointment.
He said he isn’t sure if he’ll apply for the permanent city manager position.
“Who knows what the future holds, but I came here to be a police chief,” Leighty said. “I don’t mind stepping in and assuming whatever role the city has for me.”
He added he will discuss whether to pursue the permanent city manager job with his wife.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I want to do whatever is in the best interest of the city as a whole.”
Eady, who hired Leighty last year, gave his endorsement of the council’s decision, citing the chief’s popularity in the city. The outgoing city manager initially indicated that two department heads had been considered, but then said he didn’t know who the council had considered for the position besides Leighty.
“He’s a great department head,” Eady said. “He’s well-respected and well-liked by all of the employees. There’s very capable people to step in to the interim position and Chief Leighty will do a great job.”
For Eady, however, Tuesday night’s meeting was a time for goodbyes. It was his last council meeting as city manager and he was showered with accolades by city employees throughout the night. Eady worked for the city for 30 years, first as a public works employee and then the director of that department before he was named city manager four years ago.
“His stamp is all over this city,” Code Enforcement Officer Marti Tracy said.
Department heads presented Eady with a small eagle statue and Councilman Bob Huie presented him with a key to the city.
“Forest Park’s gain is our loss,” Huie said.