There#8217;s a new sheriff in town – so to speak

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

Tomorrow’s the big day in our fair city, when we seat a new City Council and those members then elect a new mayor and vice mayor.

To say this day has been eagerly anticipated by many would be an understatement. I talked to one person who is actually cutting a vacation at the beach a few days short just to be present for it. That’s commitment, or lunacy, take your pick.

After the new councilmen for Suffolk, Charles Parr, and Holy Neck, Jeff Gardy, are sworn in is when the fun starts. The smart money is betting that Sleepy Hole Councilwoman Linda Johnson will emerge as mayor, and Whaleyville borough Councilman Curtis Milteer will be vice mayor.

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I think this will be good for Suffolk. Both are experienced representatives who more often than any others actually consider and speak up for the interests of those they represent.

The rumor mill has been swirling of late about others maneuvering for one of the positions, but an informal survey I conducted shows the duo still have the necessary support. We’ll see.

Typically at these events, that’s the end of it; but I guess the worst kept secret in town is that the new council is considering some personnel moves.

Of course that refers to City Manager Steve Herbert. It’s expected that he will be asked to vacate his office.

While I hate to see anyone lose a job, it doesn’t appear there’s any way around this one. There’s just too much ill will between the manager and those expected to make up the majority on the new council. I chatted with one member of the new council last week and it takes only a few seconds to pick up on it. I asked if they planned to make any changes to the recently approved budget. The councilman replied that, “That will be some time off. We have to study the budget first. We don’t event know what’s in it.”

Not the basis for a good relationship.

On May 2, Suffolkians voted overwhelmingly for a change of direction. Mr. Herbert made it abundantly clear through the budget discussions that he’s not really interested in changing the way he does things. If the others don’t want to find themselves in the same boat as Mayor Bobby Ralph and Councilman Calivin Jones, who lost in the election to Parr and Gardy respectively, the next time they are up for re-election, they will need to force change.

If all this happens, then I would expect council to appoint an interim city manager from among the three assistants. I’d bet Jim Vacalis is tapped because he has the most direct administrative experience and appears to operate well below the radar. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what the others do, but it must be important.

Those hoping for, expecting, and cutting short vacations to witness a big blood bath on Wednesday are going to be disappointed, though. All those other employees so closely associated with the current administration and who some apparently hold grudges against, are employees of the city manager, not city council. Any decision on their future will have to be left to a city manager.

Nonetheless, there’s a new sheriff in town, so to speak, one who will have a different style and different expectations. Those unwilling to enthusiastically play ball should probably be sending out some resumes.

Prutsok is the publisher of the Suffolk News-Herald –, or call 934-9611.