The votes are in and Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos is the Jefferson County Commission’s candidate to become the first county’s manager. The 58-year old Petelos will give up his job as a two-term mayor in Alabama’s sixth-largest city to take a job to negotiate Jefferson County onto a path away from financial disaster. That destiny was created by many politicians that landed in jail and others who didn’t, but went along for the ride.
Petelos will get a tidy sum for his efforts, a salary of $224,000 a year. But for that investment the county gains his reputation of confidence. Not just his, but the confidence of many others who think he has the ability to do what many believe is the impossible. They believe he can fix the financial disaster facing Jefferson County, a debacle some think can only be fixed by throwing in the bankruptcy towel and starting over.
Petelos says he will use a teamwork approach, just like he used to repair the mess he assumed as the Director of the Department of Human Resources and then later in the city of Hoover.
The former state lawmaker has a distinction of taking on tough jobs and negotiating through tough circumstances. That was the precise reason county commissioners said they zeroed in on his application for the job. They knew his credentials were real, and few could match his connections both locally and statewide.
Some commissioners said they could not believe Petelos was willing to take on the task.
The Alabama Legislature mandated the county decide on a manager candidate by Saturday.
That daunting task of finding a candidate to try to save the county from a financial disaster already costing hundreds of jobs and creating untold problems for county citizens did not pass without a political ploy.
Earlier this month, the vote to hire Petelos was delayed by two commissioners who said they needed more information about the high profile mayor from one of the state’s premiere cities. Commissioners Sandra Little Brown and George Bowman delayed the decision.
Tuesday, Bowman said they were negotiating “up to the last minute” to marry a decision to hire Petelos to the creation of a health care authority for Cooper Green Mercy Hospital. Bowman said a vote for one was a both for both and the votes were unanimous.
The other four commissioners denied there was a deal to get the needed four out of five votes. But the vote was carried out Tuesday morning without discussion or debate. But, there was some sort of deal made based on the events leading up to the vote and comments afterward.
Last week, the commission did vote to begin the process of creating a health care authority to oversee Cooper Green.
“There was no deal,” insisted Commissioner Jimmie Stephens. He said the commission still wanted to see a “business plan” to know how an authority would operate. Why any deal was even considered on such a huge issue was not explained.
Meantime, Petelos says he plans to push forward. He said he plans to resign as Hoover’s mayor effective September 30 and will turn in his resignation at a Thursday night work session.
He told reporters after the vote, one of his top priorities was to go to the Alabama legislature to see if he could land some money to help the county work itself out of the financial quandary it has wallowed in for years. Those problems include more than $3-billion in sewer debt and a budget shortfall of $39 million for the fiscal 2012 budget that begins Saturday.