By STEVEN NALLEY
Ben Griffith confirmed Tuesday he will leave his position as Starkville’s city planner on Oct. 18 after a six-year tenure.
Griffith made the announcement during Tuesday’s meeting of the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission. He said he has accepted a planning position in another city outside the state, but he declined to comment further on his new position on the record.
“I wanted to let you know it’s been an honor and privilege working with you, and I wish you all the best,” Griffith said to the zoning commission.
Several members of the commission, including commission chair Jerry Emison, congratulated Griffith on his new job. Emison said he was particularly grateful to Griffith for his professionalism.
“You’ve maintained your poise, focused on your work (and) stayed unflappable throughout some pretty exciting deliberations at least since I’ve been on the commission, and I thank you for that,” Emison said to Griffith. “I’d also like to thank you for ... the energy you’ve brought into this. You work incredible hours ... you define dedication ... and amazingly, you do all this and you’re affable. I think this (move to another city’s planning position) is a terrific thing for you, (and) it’s a terrible thing for the city of Starkville.”
Mayor Parker Wiseman said the timetable for replacing Griffith is not yet set in stone. The city planner position is the latest of several municipal leadership positions to see turnover in Starkville over the past year, with Emma Gandy replacing Sharon Boyd as sanitation director, Herman Peters serving as interim director of Parks and Recreation while the city seeks a permanent replacement for Matthew Rye, and Taylor Adams becoming the city’s director of finance, functionally replacing retired city clerk Markeeta Outlaw.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to have very capable department heads, and that is a trend I expect to continue in the future,” Wiseman said. “Filling a (departmental) vacancy is always a significant task. I anticipate that (Lynn) Spruill, the chief administrative officer, will serve in an interim (planning) capacity as the board lays out a timetable for the search process.”
Like Emison, Wiseman said Griffith has been a pleasure to work with.
“Ben’s got an easygoing demeanor, and his personality is approachable, which is important in a job that deals so directly with the public,” Wiseman said.
Griffith has done much more than fulfill his primary responsibilities as city planner over the past six years, Wiseman said. Griffith coordinated the city’s floodplain program and its Americans with Disabilities Act program.
He also oversaw the city’s establishment of the Starkville Historic Preservation Commission, Wiseman said.
“Ben has worn many hats, and he’s worn them all well,” Wiseman said. “He goes above and beyond the call of duty to give Starkville his very best effort. He also works long hours well into the night, and it’s not uncommon at all for him to be at City Hall on weekends. Starkville is better for the dedicated service Ben has provided over the last six years, and he will be sorely missed.”
Michael Fazio, chairman of the Starkville Historic Preservation Commission, said he was also glad to have worked with Griffith.
“(Griffith) always takes care of everything that’s his responsibility,” Fazio said. “He’s just a very responsible fellow. It makes my job a lot easier.”