No finance director, no City budget; Council votes down recommended applicant

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Carolyn Roy | News Editor
The City has been without a finance director for four months and will stay that way at least for a few more weeks.

This article published in the Jan. 13, 2022 print edition

At the City Council meeting Monday, four councilpersons voted to remove a resolution from the agenda that would have named Stephen Hickman as the finance director. Voting to remove it were Rosemary Elie, Betty Sawyer-Smith, Dale Nielsen and Chris Petite. The only vote to keep it and name Hickman was cast by Eddie Harrington.
The position has been vacant since the end of September with the retirement of Debbie Miley.
Realizing that he did not have enough votes to name Hickman, Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. said he was baffled at the lack of support from the council. Hickman has a bachelor of science in business administration from Northwestern State, a master of business administration from Louisiana Tech University and had been a small business owner. The Mayor’s office conducted two searches for the position and Hickman was the recommendation of a committee including Chief-of-Staff Edd Lee, former finance director Pat Jones and Williams. One of the most important jobs of the finance director is to be working on the budget for the next fiscal year.
Another factor is that Comptroller Jill Raynes is scheduled to retire soon and there will be little time to train a new finance director.
Williams said a local employment specialist had worked pro bono with the City and said the City should hire Hickman. “What do you want?” Williams asked the council.
Sawyer-Smith said the City needed someone more qualified with experience in governmental affairs. She said she thought Hickman did not meet that qualification. She also believed that the search and recommendation to hire him had been done too quickly.
Nielsen said he didn’t hear a solution from those opposing Hickman but he wished there was a better candidate.