Four days after they were fired, Cochrans police and fire chiefs were given their jobs back Monday, at least for the time being.
Thursday morning, Cochran Police Chief Key McGuire and Fire Chief Glenn Lord were told their jobs were being eliminated by city officials and they would be replaced by a public safety director who would oversee both departments.
But there was significant backlash to the decision.
Cochran City Manager Ray Gibson said he received several hateful phone calls and emails, including death threats to him and his family. But he said he also heard many good points and legitimate concerns from residents.
Monday he said the city would assemble a citizens task force to determine whether the city should move forward with the new director position.
I got a lot of calls, and we thought it was best that people could air their concerns, Gibson said of the task force that will be comprised of invested community members and could be in place by July. From there, it could take six months to a year for a decision about the new position, he said.
Gibson said the decision to combine the positions was made for financial reasons. He said the city has a very tight budget with little reserve, and that the decision was neither personal nor an attempt to cheat the chiefs out of their retirement.
McGuire makes about $57,000 a year, and Lord makes about $59,000 a year, Gibson said. The new, single position would have been advertised with a starting salary of $55,000 a year.
Although McGuire and Lords jobs would have ended at the end of June, the city had not begun the hiring process for the new position, Gibson said. If necessary, the city would have appointed people to the positions for the interim, he said.
Gibson said he still thinks the new director position would help the city both with the budget and with leadership. He said the position would have additional responsibilities beyond being the head of the police and fire departments that would improve emergency management overall for the city.
It would be a better management system, he said.
Gibson said he thinks the lack of chiefs would create opportunity for others in the fire and police departments to step into leadership roles.
Lord said he was not told details of the task force but that he still has his job for now.
I am very flattered by the support in this town for us, Lord said. It was overwhelming.
McGuire was unreachable for comment.
To contact writer Jaime Williams, call 744-4331.