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City has strong fire, public works leaders

By   /   November 27, 2009  /   Comments

When he was hired in 2005, Albany City Manager Alfred Lott was unofficially directed to clean house in some departments – the Civic Center, finance and human resources departments, in particular – and to leave well enough alone in other cases. By most accounts, two departments that didn’t need tampering with from a leadership standpoint were the fire and public works departments. To the credit of Lott and to the City Commission (for letting the city manager do what he is paid to do), those two departments’ leadership remains intact and continue to serve the citizens well.

Most notably, Fire Chief James Carswell proved his salt this month when it was announced that the city’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating will be lowed on Feb. 1, 2010 from a Class 3 to Class 2. Class 1 is the top rating.

To be sure, Carswell and his staff aren’t directly responsible for the capital improvements made to enable the fire department to be placed within the top 1.2 percent of the nation’s communities in terms of readiness and performance. The city’s and county’s taxpayers are.

But without capable leadership, it’s conceivable that the city’s ISO rating, on which fire insurance premium amounts are determined, could have increased. Instead, by hiring firefighters, forming a volunteer force, and purchasing vehicles and equipment, landowners in Dougherty County now have among the lowest insurance premiums in the United States.

The city’s public works department, meanwhile, may be just as efficient. Director Phil Roberson, who like Carswell rose through the ranks over than span of more than 25 years to ultimately to head his department, has had a remarkable career that has withstood many leadership evolutions above him.

In what is a symbolic recent example of Roberson’s leadership, more than anything, the public works department recently responded to an Albany Journal inquiry by removing two garbage Dumpsters that had inexplicably been on the city’s downtown sidewalks for more than a decade. Roberson’s staff overcame bureaucracy and worked with some downtown restaurants to identify a more logical means of trash disposal. As a result, downtown Albany looked – and smells! – much better.

Congratulations and thanks, Alfred Lott, James Carswell and Phil Roberson, for jobs well done.

Kevin By Kevin Hogencamp

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