July 11, 2017 10:39:56 AM
Fred Hal Baggett is set to become Oktibbeha County's next road manager, but his Monday appointment drew protest from two supervisors who said stronger candidates had applied.
Supervisors voted 3-2, with District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery and District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller opposing, to contact the former road manager for Lowndes (2000-01) and Leflore (1996-2000) counties with a job offer as soon as possible.
The board will meet again Monday to work out compensation details. Former Road Manager Victor Collins, who retired this spring, earned $76,500 in his role.
"I'm very happy to be tentatively appointed, and my plan is to build a road department that is second to none in the state of Mississippi. I feel Oktibbeha County should have that," Baggett said upon learning of the board's decision after the meeting.
After District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer recommended Baggett for the job, Miller and Montgomery both questioned why he should be labeled the board's preferred candidate.
Specifically, both supervisors highlighted a number of issues they felt emerged during June's round of public interviews, which involved five candidates: other candidates showed better plans to train and develop personnel; Baggett first declined an interview before eventually changing his mind to continue pursuing the position; and his brief tenure with Lowndes County raised red flags.
Both Miller and Montgomery showed preference for hiring Joseph King, who serves as Jackson-based SGE/Garrett ECI.IV's project manager. King, Miller said, could "take us to the next level" with his knowledge of technology and budgeting, and his civil engineering background.
"I thought King did 10 times better explaining how to take raw personnel and have them become contributors on different types of machinery. That's someone we need -- someone that can manage our county," Montgomery said. "If we want to get serious about getting things done in this county, then we need to hire the right person. We can't fix this county if we don't fix our road department. If we don't get the right person, it's going to show."
Trainer, who was joined in support of Baggett's hire by District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams, disagreed with Miller's and Montgomery's assessment of how Baggett could develop personnel, saying the former Lowndes County road manager brings in a wealth of experience that could "leave a lasting impact ... as it relates to employee development."
"Another compelling thing that is really important to me (that Baggett discussed in his interview was) his spiritual relationship," Trainer said. "You're going to need God to help you make it through this mess that we have in this county. You're going to have to be a praying man. None of the rest (of the applicants) gave me any indication they have another area of recourse to deal with things that are bigger than them."
Both District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders and District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks were members of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors during Baggett's tenure there.
Both men confirmed Baggett resigned from his position but did not comment on the reasons behind the departure.
While Brooks said he and Baggett "had some disagreements" but "got along pretty good," Sanders applauded Oktibbeha County's decision to hire the former road manager.
"He's a good man, and the county made a great hire," Sanders said. "Hal has the knowledge and experience that will produce results."
Baggett runs his own firm, Baggett Engineering Inc., and also served as county engineer for Holmes County from 2008-14. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Mississippi State University.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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