The Stewart episode: Time to move on
Oct. 14, 2001
Whatever reasons compelled William E. "Bill" Stewart to resign from a Meridian Public Works directorship job he officially held for a very short time may never be known. Neither he nor anyone in city government is legally obliged to tell the public what happened. While there is keen public interest, the details may, arguably, fall under "personnel" rules. In this case, with Stewart's apparently voluntary resignation, the decisions could have been personal.
But it should be argued that what happened is an unanticipated result of a closed, private search process, a process that city officials refused to divulge and a process that in this case failed to produce a permanent replacement for former Public Works head Benny Wolfe.
There is great value in allowing the public to feel that they are part of the decision-making process by city government. At the very least, officials should share with the rest of us how they plan to go about filling the position. Are they looking inside the Public Works Department or will they bring in someone from outside? What professional and personal characteristics do they seek? What educational background, professional accomplishments and types of experience must an individual have in order to be considered?
We hope the Stewart lesson is constructive: The more information to which the public has access, the more the public is included in the process, the better the ultimate chances of a successful search and, even beyond that, a successful tenure in an important position.
Instead of dwelling on the past, we encourage city officials to simply move on and as quickly as possible find a competent, qualified individual to fill what is clearly a key position in Meridian. There is work to be done and it will not get done with "no comments" and "I don't knows."