Two county department heads leaving

County fire coordinator Steve Coker sits between sheriff Jimmy Edwards, left, and board president Chad Coffey.
December 20th, 2019     Featured Government & Politics

Union County is losing two long-serving administrators this month.

Steve Coker announced his resignation as Union County Fire Coordinator and Johnny Bell is retiring as Chief Deputy and Jail Administrator. The announcements came at the meeting of the Union County Board of Supervisors this past Monday.

Coker has served as fire coordinator since 2008 and works with the county’s 10 volunteer fire departments as well as the New Albany department, of which he is chief.

Coker will remain as New Albany chief. No replacement for Coker as county coordinator was named.

“I’ve had a good time doing it and we have accomplished a lot,” Coker said. “We’ve saved a lot of money getting rates down.”

During Coker’s tenure each of the county department has improved its fire rating, sometimes reducing fire insurance costs as much as 40 percent, he said.

Johnny Bell

Johnny Bell

Bell has worked in law enforcement since 1984 when he served as auxiliary deputy for sheriff Joe Bryant. Since then he has worked for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, as a parole office, as an investigator for the district attorney’s office 15 years and the past eight years as chief deputy and jail administrator for Sheriff Jimmy Edwards.

Bell’s wife, Nancy, serves as dietitian for the jail.

Baron Baker will be the new chief deputy and jail administrator.

Also Monday, supervisors approved moving two more voting locations in the county. This is part of an effort to move polling locations away from schools in the county.

Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford said a consultant recommended the change for safety and logistical reasons, to keep from having people in and out of the building during school and for security.

One changes Monday was to move the West Union location to the office of Greg Conlee’s construction company in a building that formerly held the Morrisson Feed Mill.

The other was to move from Ingomar Attendance Center to Ingomar Baptist Church.

Approval had previously been given to move voting from Myrtle School to Temple Baptist Church and from East Union School to Ellistown Baptist Church.

In a somewhat related move, voting is being moved from the Northeast Mississippi Community College campus to Watson Grove Church. This was attributed to providing more parking as well as having more space without interfering with classes.

On the agenda Monday was a public hearing on closing a section of County Road 260. At a previous meeting it was said that the landowners adjacent to the section were in favor of the closing but Fifth District Supervisor Steve Watson asked that the matter be taken under advisement. He only said that the road is in his district and he wanted to do more investigation before voting.

In other agenda items supervisors:

  • Approved a quote of $49,801 for a sign at the Martintown North Industrial Park, which is being developed. Industrial developer Gary Chandler said this is something the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is helping fund the project, wants.
  • Accepted a low bid on an air handler for the Union County Courthouse. This is for a section that has seen little public use but that will change so adequate heating and cooling will be needed.
  • Accepted low bids on cold mix, limestone and liquid asphalt for road work next year.
  • Voted to advertise for five new single-axle dump trucks to be purchased through a reverse auction.

In personnel at the sheriff’s department, supervisors approved:

  • Changing Chris Swords from corporal to lieutenant.
  • Changing Adam Fitts from sergeant to lieutenant.
  • Changing Jeremy McLarty from lieutenant to investigator.
  • Changing Brent Baker from corporal to sergeant.
  • Changing Baron Baker from investigator to chief deputy and jail administrator.

Before the board adjourned, president Chad Coffey resigned effective Dec. 31. A new board president will be voted on at the next meeting Jan. 6. Board members agreed early on in their terms to rotate the office of president among all the supervisors. That would prevent anyone member gaining excessive power and also allow each member to gain experience.

All county offices will be closed Dec. 24 and 25 but garbage collection will not change next week.

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