Columbus Light and Water General Manager Todd Gale died Saturday morning, Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant has confirmed.
According to a statement issued by Merchant, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call at 9:59 a.m. reporting an accident on Togo Road in south Lowndes County. An adult male, later identified as Gale, 52, was found a short distance from a vehicle that had come to rest off the shoulder of the road near his camp house.
Gale’s body was taken to the coroner’s office and an investigation is pending, but Merchant said there were no obvious signs of trauma.
The news stunned city leaders and CLW board members.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said board member Jabari Edwards. “It came totally out of nowhere. I was rabbit hunting this morning and didn’t have a cell signal. But later, when I got in cell range, I saw all these texts and missed calls. I made some phone calls, heard about Todd dying and headed straight to his (camp house. I realized it hadn’t happened there but down the road from his house. When I got to the area — it was maybe a minute or two from his house — the sheriff’s department had the road blocked off, but I was close enough to recognize his truck.”
Mayor Robert Smith said Gale’s passing was both a personal blow and a blow to the city of Columbus as well.
“Todd was a friend of mine and we had a great working relationship,” Smith said. “He did whatever he could do to help the city of Columbus. Anytime you went to him with an idea, you knew if he could, if it was legally possible, he would do it. So this is a great loss for the city of Columbus. He was definitely an asset to the city.
“My sympathies and condolences go out to his family,” he added. “It’s a sad day.”
Edwards described Gale as knowledgeable and professional.
“He really knew the job and how to do it,” Edwards said. “He was always willing to think outside the box and was receptive to new ideas. Todd and I were supposed to meet next week with the Columbus School District and the Housing Authority on trying to add internet service. He wasn’t afraid to try new things. I know he had a lot of respect from other managers around TVA. He was someone who was really devoted to his job and highly skilled at doing it.
“He loved the department and loved his employees,” Edwards added. “Anytime he had a ceremony or something for an employee, he would always call and ask the board members to come. He wanted the board to be involved with his people.”
CLW’s board held a special-call meeting Saturday afternoon via phone and appointed Comptroller Mike Bernsen as interim general manager, effective immediately.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]