Sanders resigns as community development director


Buddy Sanders sits before the Starkville Board of Aldermen during Tuesday’s regular meeting. Sanders tendered his resignation to Mayor Lynn Spruill on Thursday morning (Photo by Faith Lifer, SDN)

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN EDITOR

City of Starkville Community Development Director Buddy Sanders handed in a letter of resignation to Mayor Lynn Spruill on Thursday morning and will leave the position he has held for the last five years, effective immediately.

Sanders told the Starkville Daily News on Thursday that the resignation was voluntarily tendered.

“I wish the board and the citizens of Starkville the best,” Sanders said.

Spruill said Sanders did not provide a reason for his resignation, but said he met with the department’s staff and talked with her briefly.

The mayor then said the city will likely operate without a community development director for the time being, but the Board of Aldermen can always decide to take a different approach.

“The board may choose to do something differently, but they are aware and we will see what kind of discussion that might generate,” she said. “Obviously, we are continuing with city business and it’s not going to hamper what we’re doing. We appreciate Mr. Sanders, but we will see what our opportunities are. We will see where we may need to re-evaluate the job and see where we can be better.”

Spruill said she will manage the department on an interim basis until a new hire can be made, which is a decision that several on the board believe to be the right one for the time being.

TENSIONS RISE

While Sanders did not provide a direct reason for why he decided to abruptly resign, tensions flared at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen due to confusion regarding presentation materials.

Early in the meeting, Sanders appeared before the board ahead of a public hearing for the rezoning of a parcel on Yellow Jacket Drive.

The cover page in the packet presented to the mayor and aldermen was for the Yellow Jacket Drive rezoning, but the materials in the packet related to a rezoning on Louisville Street.

Amid the confusion, several aldermen voiced their concerns, with Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller opting to abstain from voting on the rezoning due to not having the correct information in front of him.

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker, who declined to comment on Sanders’ resignation to the Starkville Daily News, asked Sanders if the correct information for the site was initially presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission when it made a decision on rezoning.

Sanders answered that the materials provided to the Planning and Zoning Commission were correct, but Miller followed up and expressed his concern for the problems related to the packet.

Miller, who previously served on the Planning and Zoning Commission before being elected to his first term on the Board of Aldermen, said it makes it difficult for the board to make a decision when the information provided is incorrect.

“I would like for us in the future to be 100 percent on what we have in the packet and presenting, I don’t know if I’m comfortable considering this tonight,” Miller said.

“Just for me to say, I am sorry we find ourselves in an embarrassing position to be in not providing the accurate data,” Mayor Spruill added. “I will obviously take it on myself to make sure this does not happen again.”

MOVING FORWARD

While Miller was vocal about protecting the process as it relates to rezoning, he said the decision for Sanders to resign was voluntary.

“I think the resignation was a decision of Buddy’s and certainly wish him well and look forward to taking a look at that position and seeing how we want to, as a city, move forward,” Miller said.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver commented that he believed job performance had something to do with Sanders’ decision to step down.

“I know (Sanders) wasn’t prepared in the board meeting,” Carver told the Starkville Daily News Thursday.

Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk declined to comment too much on a personnel issue, but said she thinks those on the board appreciate Sanders’ efforts and wish him the best.

She then voiced her support for Spruill taking on the duties of running the department in the interim while a search for a replacement is conducted.

“I believe that yes, (Spruill) is the logical person to step in on a temporary basis, she has done that in the past when we were between community development directors and she is familiar with it,” Sistrunk said. “At this point, it is more care-taking and managing staff.”

Sistrunk, who serves as budget chair for the Board of Aldermen, said she believes the city will probably advertise for the position soon, but said it was important that the Board of Aldermen be mindful of the hire.

“I don’t want to hire someone just for the sake of hiring someone,” she said.

Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins echoed Sistrunk in saying that the Board of Aldermen appreciates the work put in by Sanders and said he believed Spruill to be the qualified person to lead the department for now.

“I certainly enjoyed working with Mr. Sanders and his position of employment for the city of Starkville, in light of Mr. Sanders voluntary resignation from the city,” Perkins said. “I think the city needs to move very carefully and prudently in terms of moving forward and considering the person to replace Mr. Buddy Sanders. I think that the city should not be in a hurry or a rush to fill the position.”

Perkins then said Spruill has the background to be an effective leader for the department, given her previous experience as the chief administrative officer for the city.

“It’s a very important position and deals with issues such as community development, economic development and they have to deal with local developers, citizens, regional, state and national leaders and personnel and other people who may be coming to our city for the first time,” Perkins said. “This person has to be one of great importance and have to understand how
things will unfold. I think the board needs to name the mayor as interim director.”

Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn declined to comment and Ward 3 Alderman David Little did not return a request for comment by press deadline on Thursday.

The next regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen is scheduled for Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m. in the court room at City Hall.

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