By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times
The latest events surrounding the North-central Alabama Regional Council of Governments (NARCOG) took an interesting turn Wednesday.
After 15 months serving as interim executive director of the organization, Lona Johns turned in her resignation. West Point Mayor Kenneth Kilgo was appointed by a 6-2 vote, with six members abstaining, to fill the temporary position.
Johns presented board members with a letter during a regular monthly meeting, stating she was retiring effective Feb. 6. It also stated she has enjoyed working with NARCOG and will miss being part of the team and working with the organization’s senior clients.
She later elaborated the decision was made so she could spend more time with family.
“To say the last 15 months as your executive director has not been the most trying time in my life would be an understatement,” Johns said. “In December I had some health problems and ended up in the hospital. While I was there I had an epiphany — what am I doing?
“My husband needs me, my son and daughter-in-law need me, and most importantly, my grandchildren need me,” she continued. “I’m looking forward to retirement and do plan to spend more time with my family and friends.”
NARCOG board chairman and Cullman County Commissioner Stanley Yarbrough stressed it was only a temporary position to board members, and told them he felt like the organization needed someone from outside of NARCOG to come in and fill the position until a permanent director can be hired.
Three members from the Lawrence County delegation disagreed.
“I’m strongly against someone coming in knowing very little about NARCOG,” commissioner Mose Jones said. “But Mr. Kilgo has worked hard for this organization, and he knows what’s going on. If anybody is going to be put in a temporary position, I would support him.”
Charles Owens added, “It would be a bad play to put someone in that hasn’t worked with Mrs. Johns, and have them come in, pick this up, and get us to the endzone if that’s a good phrase. This gentlemen here (Kilgo) has been here a while, so why don’t you all consider this.”
Dale Davis, also of Lawrence County, made the motion to accept Kilgo to the position. However, the final vote didn’t come without disapproval and some concern.
NARCOG recently received a letter from the Alabama Department of Senior Services stating there could be a conflict of interest, because Kilgo is a mayor and had previously been working as a part-time consultant for NARCOG.
Kilgo said it was because an old board roster inadvertently still had him listed as a board member.
His attorney, Dan Willingham, assured the board there was no conflict.
“I was concerned because Kenneth is mayor of West Point, and so we were very interested in making sure there was not a problem,” Willingham said. “I’ve looked through the attorney general’s opinion, looked through all of the conflict possibilities under the ethics commission,and also communicated with the league of municipalities, and they say there is not a conflict.”
Several others members still wanted to get an opinion from the attorney general’s office, but because it was unsure of how long that might take, and only two weeks before Johns’ last day, it was an issue others felt needed to be resolved during the meeting.
Jones seconded Davis’ motion and the deciding vote was then made.
Twenty four hours later, another twist in events unfolded when Morgan County accepted an agreement to return to NARCOG. Kilgo said the board will vote at its February meeting to bring them back into the organization.
*Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org