Forest Park appoints new public works director

FOREST PARK — Councilwoman Latresa Akins was concerned that the new Forest Park public works director slot wasn’t filled in-house as she voted against the appointment Monday.

Council voted 3-1 to accept City Manager Frank Brandon’s request to confirm the appointment of Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady to fill the spot left empty by Mike Gippert’s retirement.

Brandon said 30 people applied for the spot and he narrowed the field to three he interviewed. He said one candidate was from Rome, one was an in-house employee and the third was Eady.

“He is a man of impeccable character and I think he’ll do a great job,” said Brandon. “He was easily the best candidate of the 30 we looked at.”

Akins wanted to know Eady’s qualifications and if Brandon interviewed anyone from Forest Park. She also wanted to know if interim director Rusty Still was considered.

Brandon said Still didn’t apply. However, former City Manager John Parker said when he advertised for the position in-house for a week, Still was one of three city workers who applied. Parker left his city job in June and was not at Monday’s meeting.

“I always would advertise in-house before going public with job openings,” said Parker on Thursday. “I talked to Rusty and told him he needed more experience in certain areas and he said he understood.”

Parker said Eady will do a great job in Forest Park and he should know. When Parker was Morrow city manager, he hired Eady.

“His heart is in public works,” Parker said.

Brandon told council Eady will be a good fit for the city.

“He’s always been a public works guy,” Brandon said. “He likes getting his hands dirty. He’ll be good for the city and will help along with beautification.”

Ward 1 Councilman Tommy Smith shared his own experience with Eady.

“I worked with Jeff when I had a business in Morrow and he was outstanding,” he said. “He took care of whatever I needed taken care of.”

Council members also discussed how to handle what they perceive to be Forest Park’s negative image. Earlier this month, the board debated hiring a public relations firm, letting resident Pat Cooper volunteer part-time to handle press releases or publishing a newsletter in-house.

The city’s management analyst Angela Redding told the board Monday night that she would be compiling a newsletter that would be distributed throughout the city. Council members asked that businesses be included in the dissemination of the newsletters and suggested some be printed in Spanish and the most common Asian language.

Parks and Recreation Director Elaine Corley told the board that it is too late in the year to plan a Christmas parade.

“It is next to impossible to get the participation we’d be happy with this late in the year,” she said. “We’re going to have the lights and vendors and Santa in the park. That’s going to be our best bet this late in the year.”

The celebration at Starr Park will be Dec. 2, which pushes the first Monday council meeting to Dec. 3.

Corley said there will be crafts, entertainment, lots of lights, hot chocolate, cookies and, of course, a tree.

“We’re working on getting the biggest tree in Clayton County,” she said. “Don’t get too excited in case it falls through but we’re working on it.”

Planning, Zoning and Building Director Al Wiggins told council members that he is getting exploratory numbers on the demolition of Briarwood Forest Apartments. The fire department has agreed to burn several of the more than 20-building complex.

Wiggins said the complex has been vacant for 10 years and is a public nuisance.

Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton offered support from the county in tearing down the eyesore.

“The residents have been so patient,” she said. “There’s a very nice community around there, once you get into the area.”

Wiggins said all costs involved would be sought against the owners in the form of property liens.

The city also accepted nine framed historical or religious documents donated by First Baptist Church in Forest Park — the church attended by Lockhart and Brandon. They include 10 Commandments, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Magna Carta.