Council approves 2021 budget despite concerns over new $100k position

Updated: Jan. 6, 2021 at 8:46 AM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The Jonesboro City Council approved the 2021 budget Tuesday as it transitioned into a new year with a new administration.

One of the first things on Mayor Harold Copenhaver’s list was fixing the structure of his administration and departments.

What was formerly just a chief of staff position will now be two separate positions: chief operating officer (COO) and chief administrative officer (CAO).

Copenhaver named Tony Thomas as his chief operating officer. The mayor said he did go through an interview process and felt Thomas was the best for the position.

“He’s going to be a unique fit for our administration and, needless to say, I’m excited about Tony working with me,” Copenhaver said.

Alongside Thomas, the chief administrative officer will also work to manage several departments. The CAO position will pay no less than $90,368 and upwards of $135,552.

Several councilmembers raised concerns about the salary and questioned the creation of the title when several departments, including fire and police, still need staffing and funding. One councilmember said the money should be spent in the field, not in positions.

“In the first three to four months of my administration, I’m going to be reassessing every department, every individual that works for us, and making it to where they are accountable,” Copenhaver

The new mayor defended his decisions, stressing that the CAO will play a major role in finding and creating more economic development, public and private funding, providing stability to support major projects.

Copenhaver added he is open to making necessary adjustments further down the road.

“I’m going to make adjustments according to my strengths and weaknesses, as well as the department heads,” Copenhaver said. “We’re not getting rid of individuals. It’s the structure that we have. That way, I can manage better.”

He added during this transition, he just needs everyone to have an “I can” attitude so they all can be as efficient as possible.

“I’m looking forward to the future of our community and thank you for the positive vote this evening from the city council and their support,” Copenhaver said.

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