Newness of job wears off quite quickly

Published 12:01 am Friday, January 11, 2008

Everyone remembers his or her first day on the job. Don’t you?

Boy, I sure do.

As an eager know-it-all photographer, I walked into the newsroom on my first day ready to take on my new position as The Natchez Democrat staff photographer.

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I was overconfident, to say the least.

It didn’t take long for me to realize, however, how little I knew about Natchez, the newspaper and photojournalism.

I spent hours writing down notes of all the things I was to learn on my new job — from how to fill out a timesheet to how to submit photographs to be published.

At some point that eager look on my face turned to a look of concern and confusion.

I started the day on top, but quickly realized that I was at the bottom working my way up. But it was the first day of a new job. Things could only get better. Right?

I saw similar looks on the faces of the Adams County Board of Supervisors Monday morning.

Monday was the first day of a new term for county government and, as is customary, supervisors elected the president and vice-president of the board for the year.

With bright, eager looks supervisors Henry Watts and Spanky Felter assumed new leadership positions.

With applause, the day started off on an optimistic note of change.

It didn’t take long for a little of the brightness to wear off, when the board hired Bobby Cox as a new attorney. Former board attorney Bob Latham packed up his things, leaving the supervisors with a list of 20 cases in which he was actively involved.

These projects ranged from an eminent domain case that is to go to trial in the next few weeks to the multi-billion dollar Rentech project.

When supervisor Boo Campbell made a motion to retain Latham for the Renteh project, there were several moments of confusion wrapped up in points of order.

Felter added an amendment to the motion to suspend hiring Latham pending a meeting with Rentech and International Paper. After that amendment passed, supervisors were uncertain of the motion remaining on the floor.

Was the motion to hire Latham or not hire Latham? Would they talk to Rentech and International Paper or not? It took several moments to unravel the situation.

Clearly, it was a classic first day on the job for new leadership.

Awkward moments and periods of hesitation were to be expected.

What was not expected Monday was the appearance that many of the day’s decisions were made without planning and forethought.

Hadn’t the supervisors considered the impact not hiring Latham would have on the county’s current legal issues?

Apparently not. It took less than two days for the board to reverse course and retain Latham as the attorney for the Rentech project.

Had the supervisors researched the issue prior to Monday’s meeting they would have at least known the possible ramifications of not rehiring Latham.

Supervisors Watts, Felter and Mike Lazarus all expressed concerns about the salary and fees that Latham had received from the county.

How much did Latham make last year? No one knew for sure.

Had they researched the matter with the county administrator, they would have discovered that Latham made $81,400.

Supervisor Lazarus had heard from unnamed others that Latham was making much more.

That raises the biggest question of all.

How much were supervisors relying on rumor rather than research to base their decision on not rehiring Latham as county attorney?

If they had known the facts, would their vote have been different?

We call upon our leadership to make decisions based on facts not rumor.

But it was the first day on the job for new county leadership and hopefully they will grow into their new responsibilities.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor for The Democrat. He can be reached at