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Fire chief, senior center director positions remain unfilled for now

NO CHIEF, DIRECTOR APPOINTED – The Humboldt City Board did a lot of wonderful things last week by making Juneteenth a city holiday, approved a $5.5-million road, and approve hiring two new firemen and a new police officer. But, when the appointment of a new fire chief and director for the Senior Citizen Center was up for discussion and a vote, neither position was filled. It was not due the candidates not being deserving, instead because their names were omitted on the agenda items.

by DANNY WADE  |  Senior Editor

When the Humboldt Board of Mayor and Aldermen met on Monday, February 27, Mayor Marvin Sikes had high hopes of naming the new fire chief and the new director of the Humboldt Senior Citizens Center. Neither position was filled during the meeting.

Item 13 on the city board agenda was the appointment of a fire chief. Item 14 was to promotion within the Senior Citizens Center for a director position. Neither agenda item had the name of the person Mayor Sikes was recommending for the positions.

When the fire chief agenda item came up, Mayor Sikes recommended Lee Kail for the position. Kail has been serving as acting chief after former chief, Chester Owens, retired last August. Sikes said Kail has been doing a good job and deserves the position.

“I have a problem with this,” Alderman Leon McNeal stated. “It makes us a hypocrite. We called MTAS for (assistance to find candidates for) the job. There were two top men that passed the test. I’m asking the board to hire one of them.”

Mayor Sikes said he was no hypocrite. He also noted that he received his board packet that day and only then noticed there were no names for the two positions.

“It’s not right,” McNeal said. “It’s not right for Chief Kail. It’s not right for this board. I ain’t got a problem with Chief Kail—I got a problem with the way it’s going down.”

McNeal, who made the motion to appoint a fire chief, said he withdrew his motion. He said he was not trying to make anyone feel bad.

“We didn’t know who this person was until we got here tonight,” Alderwoman Tammie Porter added. “We don’t know nothing that’s going on in the city of Humboldt until we get to this meeting and it’s not right.”

With no motion on the table, Mayor Sikes asked the board what direction they wanted to go moving forward.

Alderman Monte Johnson motioned to table the fire chief appointment, which was seconded by Alderwoman Julie Jones-Coleman.

The next agenda item was to select a director for the Humboldt Senior Citizens Center. Again, no name was on the agenda item, just the promotion.

Mayor Sikes said he would like to promote Mattie Hall to the director position. Just like Chief Kail, Hall has been serving as acting director since before former director, the late Archie Cox, passed and filling in while Cox was out with health issues.

Once again, McNeal said this was the same as before with the fire chief position. But this time, McNeal said he would support Hall as director. He noted that she had been doing the job at the senior center and wanted to promote her to director.

Alderman Shane Lynch asked if the director position should be tabled as well since the board had just tabled the fire chief position.

“This is the same as before,” Lynch said. “No offense to anybody. But to be fair, we should table. I’ve seen Ms. Hall—she’s doing a good job.”

McNeal, who made the original motion, withdrew his motion.

“It wasn’t my intention,” Sikes reiterated regarding the names not being included on the agenda items.

Lynch motioned to table the promotion.

In other board action:

•The board approved the state industrial access contract. Gibson County Economic Development Director Kingsley Brock offered some insight on the contract.

Brock said this project is to extend the road inside the Gibson County Industrial Park from Tyson Blvd., across the railroad tracks all the way to McKnight Rd., which will create a second way to access the industrial park. Brock said the new road will alleviate some of the traffic at the Hwy. 45 entrance to the park and congestion at Central Ave.

Alderman Monte Johnson asked if the new road would add more traffic to Gibson Wells Rd., to which Brock answered that it would. Brock believes some trucks entering and leaving the park will use this road, depending on the direction in which they are traveling to reach their destination.

Johnson asked if a traffic light would be added to the intersection where Gibson Wells crosses the bypass. Brock said a traffic light is not part of this project. He did note that if more business or industry locates in and around the industrial park and traffic does become an issue, he would contact TDOT to do a traffic study to see if a traffic light would be needed.

The board approved the access contract.

•Two beer permits were approved Monday evening. With Cox Oil Co. selling out to Tri Star Energy LLC, the current beer permits would not longer be valid. Maverick Quick Stop #3207 and Little General #3227, both located on East End Dr. in Humboldt, submitted applications for carry-out beer sales.

Store managers, Penny Brown from Maverick and Tara Wright from Little General, filed applications. Brown approached first as the board considered approving the permit. She said the new ownership wants the store managers to apply for the licenses.

Alderman Lynch asked if this would take the liability away from the owner and put it on the managers.

City treasurer, Kim Hadley, said this is the way the permits have been issued for decades. He said it was no different from Walmart or other businesses that sell beer but have their headquarters in another city or even another state. He said the company is the permit holder and the manager is only the signee.

City attorney, Randy Camp, said that the manager’s name should be an agent for the parent company. After more discussion on how the manager could be the agent for the parent company, with amendments to the original motion for the beer permits, both locations were approved.

•The board approved the first reading of Ordinance 2023-01, an ordinance to amend the personnel policies and procedure of the city of Humboldt. The amendment would add Juneteenth as a city holiday on June 19 each year.

In June of 2021, Congress passed legislation the make Juneteenth a federal holiday Juneteenth has been celebrated for several years to recognize the day the last African-American slaves were freed in Texas.

Mayor Sikes said that there are some cities in the area that were against making Juneteenth a city holiday, but he wants Humboldt to celebrate this important day in history.

The board approved the first reading of the ordinance. A second reading must be approved before the ordinance is adopted to make

NEW POLICEMAN – Rashon Johnson (center) was hired as a new officer for the Humboldt Police Department last week. Police Chief Reynard Buchanan (left) and Mayor Marvin Sikes welcome Johnson to the police force.

Juneteenth and city holiday.

•The board approved hiring Rashon Johnson as a new officer for the Humboldt Police Department. In his letter of recommendation, Police Chief Reynard Buchanan stated Johnson had passed the National Police Officer Selection test, agility tests, medical exam, drug screening, psychological evaluation and background check.

Johnson’s first day was the following day, Tuesday, February 28. He will be required to attend Basic Police School.

•The board also approved hiring two fire fighters for the Humboldt Fire Department. Acting Fire Chief Leroy Kail recommended hiring Cody Manning and Tobias Horton to the fire department. Kail said both men met or exceeded the requirements of the hiring process.

NEW FIRE FIGHTERS – Acting Fire Chief Leroy Kail (center) welcomes two new firefighters to the Humboldt Police Department after both men were hired last week. Tobias Horton (left) and Cody Manning were on the job the next day. Both were out assisting with the storms that blew through on Friday.

Both Horton and Manning were unanimously approved for hire.

•The last order of business on the agenda was to accept a retirement from the Humboldt Street Department. James Howard Johnson submitted his letter of retirement.

Public Works and Street Department Supervisor Willie Reed said Johnson had worked for the city for almost 30 years. The board approved Johnson’s retirement.

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