With three City Council members on Monday voting to fire the city manager the council recently voted to hire, another era in East St. Louis city government was born.
Alvin Parks Jr. had the support of council members Roy Mosley Sr., LaToya Greenwood and Robert Eastern III when he was named city manager in August. But on Monday it was Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks, Eastern and Councilwoman June Hamilton Dean who voted to oust Parks.
Longtime city employee Edith Moore was named interim city manager, effective immediately.
Parks was being paid $100,000 a year with health benefits and a city vehicle. Moore will receive the same.
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Mosley and Greenwood did not attend the special City Council meeting on Monday.
Parks was disappointed with the city leaders’ decision to go in another direction, but he smiled while he was talking to a reporter. He said it was important for him to “drive professionalism and have effective government and move the city forward.”
Parks declined to say whether he knew why the City Council chose to fire him. Instead, he directed all questions as to why the move was made to the three members of the City Council who voted against him.
Mr. Parks served as mayor of the city for eight years and his return to the city as city manager has been an impediment to growth on a federal, state and local level.
East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks
“As mayor of the city of East St. Louis, it is my goal to ensure that the city moves forward and grows,” Jackson-Hicks said. “Mr. Parks served as mayor of the city for eight years and his return to the city as city manager has been an impediment to growth on a federal, state and local level. We are looking forward to the city becoming financially sound and positioned to provide growth that will lead to jobs for East St. Louis citizens.”
City officials recently said East St. Louis faces a $5.7 million deficit. Also, revenue from the Casino Queen has dropped from about $11 million annually to about $6 million.
Eastern, who previously voted to hire Parks as city manager, said he felt that Jackson-Hicks deserved an opportunity to realize her vision for the city. He said he did not want to be viewed as an impediment.
Hamilton Dean said her vote was not personal. “The mayor has a vision for the city and I’d like to see the city move in a different direction.”
“Out of respect for Mr. Parks, I prefer not to discuss the specific reasons for his dismissal,” Hamilton Dean said. After she voted to fire Parks, she walked over to him and shook his hand.
We got a lot of things done.
Alvin Parks Jr., who was fired as East St. Louis city manager
The 10 a.m. meeting started with Parks sitting at the table where the city manager sits in the City Council chambers. By 10:07 a.m., just after the unanimous vote to remove him as the city’s chief operating officer, Parks stepped from behind the table and walked to a seat in the audience, where he watched the council members whose votes uprooted him from the job he seemed to be enjoying immensely.
By 10:10 a.m., Moore had been named interim city manager. At the end of the meeting, Jackson-Hicks thanked Parks for his service as city manager, then congratulated Moore on her new job.
Then, turning her attention to the audience of about 30 people, a lot of whom were city employees, Jackson-Hicks said, “As we try to move forward, it’s going to be very important that we try to work together as much as possible.”
After the meeting, Parks said that in his short tenure as city manager, “We got a lot of things done.”
One of the things he said he was most proud of was “the firefighter agreement between the city and the East St. Louis firefighters union. It’s one of the most important agreements the city could enter in in the last two years. The agreement reduces the minimum manning requirement and establishes fire stability and public safety stability.”
The fire department’s daily staffing level was reduced from 12 to 9 firefighters as part of the agreement.
As for as Moore, Parks said, “She knows some of the fundamentals about some of the things that are going on.”
Moore said she was excited about taking over a key position. In East St. Louis’ form of government, the city manager runs the day-to-day operations in the city, including the hiring and firing of employees.
Moore said she “plans to do what is best for this community.”
A key thing for Moore she said is that the city “cooperate with other entities and let the citizens know their concerns will be addressed.” Following the meeting, Moore went to the mayor’s third floor office, where she was sworn in.
After Jackson-Hicks won in April, she brought in Traycee Chapman from Colorado to be city manager. At that time, Jackson-Hicks had the majority of the board supporting her, including Eastern. It was Eastern who left Jackson-Hicks and aligned himself with Parks’ team in August.
Chapman was fired after a couples of months on the job and Parks, who had previously been mayor for eight years, became city manager with the majority of the board voting for him.
Parks lost the mayoral election to Jackson-Hicks. Jackson-Hicks did not like it that the moves she said to improve the city were quickly ushered out the window with Parks returning to the city’s government in an even more powerful position than that as mayor.
All of the people Jackson-Hicks picked as part of her team were laid off by Parks. One person fired by Chapman in the budgetary office was brought back by Parks. Jackson-Hicks, although not really loud about her disdain, made it no secret that she was not happy about the move. She said for her vision to work, she had to have the latitude to implement her transition plan.
A longtime critic of Parks, Lillie Butler, who is also a former precinct committeewoman, said, “Now what?” in response to a new city manager.
Butler was asked whether she had faith in Moore. “Right now I do,” Butler said. “But my main concern is for where I live in Dayton Wedgewood, where our street has been flooding for more than 25 years. Today with all of the rain, everybody who lives there is dealing with a flooded basement. We can’t drive on or off our street when it rains. And, I am concerned about other citizens who are suffering, too.”
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503