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Edwards announces WG&L retirement

The long-time general manager of Albany's Water, Gas & Light Commission plans to leave that position Feb. 15.

Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission General Manager Lemuel Edwards explains the organizational structure of the utility to the Albany City Commission.

Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission General Manager Lemuel Edwards explains the organizational structure of the utility to the Albany City Commission.

ALBANY, Ga. — With the the Albany City Commission's surprising decision Tuesday not to contribute money from the city's budget to the initial phase of an Environmental Protection Division-ordered hazardous waste cleanup in the city, a March deadline for starting the project now looms even larger.

The ultimate decisions regarding cleanup of the former manufactured gas plant at 900 Front St. will be made without further input from current Water, Gas & Light Commission General Manager Lemuel Edwards, who has decided to retire effective Feb. 15 after 31 years with the city, 21 with WG&L and 11 as general manager of the utility.

"I can deal with the things that the city throws at (WG&L), but I just don't see things getting any better," Edwards said Wednesday. "I don't have to keep doing this — I'm comfortable with my finances, I own properties and all three of my children are grown and successful — so I decided it was time for me to step down.

"I hate to leave our employees with this cloud hanging over them, but they're professionals and I know they will continue to do their jobs. But three people — Nathan Davis, Bobby Langstaff and (Tommie) Postell (Albany's city attorney and two city commissioners, respectively) — have decided they want to be in charge of the Water, Gas & Light Commission, and it just doesn't make sense to keep fighting them."

Langstaff, who offered best wishes to Edwards and his family in retirement, said the utility general manager misunderstands his concern about WG&L's relationship with the city.

"I'm anxious to read the (University of Georgia-based) Carl Vinson Institute's report and their suggested corrections on what they see as potential duplication of services with the city and WG&L," Langstaff, an attorney, said. "One of my primary concerns is making sure (both entities') policies are consistent. For example, I know WG&L's bid process is not in compliance with the city's. And there have been instances where their failure to adhere to city standards has exposed the city to possible lawsuits.

"I absolutely believe, with the Vinson report coming and Mr. Edwards' decision to retire, that now is a good time to make some changes in the relationship between the city and WG&L. I hope there is a national search to bring in someone with the skill set that will allow us to make tough decisions on things like staffing, especially at the management level."

Langstaff said having City Manager James Taylor more involved in WG&L operations and management makes sense.

"Since Jim Taylor has been city manager, I think the city has taken a more businesslike approach to government than it has in some time," Langstaff said. "That's the kind of approach I'd like to see at WG&L, that we'd no longer tolerate the astronomical bad debt that has accumulated there."

Taylor, too, said making changes at WG&L will be easier with new management coming in.

"I think all these things (the Vinson report, Edwards' decision to resign, the looming cleanup) will likely make change easier," the city manager said. "But I honestly don't know what that change should look like. It just seems to intuitively make sense; there are some apparent inefficiencies that could be addressed, like duplication of services.

"As for increasing my involvement (in the running of WG&L), the commission has to decide what my relationship will be and put it in writing."

Edwards, who was brought on as a city of Albany employee after he, as a U.S. Department of Labor official, testified in the landmark Johnnie Johnson Civil Rights case that reshaped Albany's hiring practices, started work in the city's human resources department in 1981. He served an interim period as city manager after 10 years with the city's HR department, and was named WG&L general manager in 1991.

He said the bitterness toward the utility that has arisen among some city officials threatens the city as it deals with the cleanup of a manufactured gas plant that is expected to cost between $5 million and $10 million.

"The city's saying they don't have any money; well, we don't have the money to pay for the cleanup," Edwards said. "It's become something of a 'tee-tee contest' for some commissioners, but that's not going to impact EPD. They expect dirt to be dug on that site starting March 1.

"I really don't know what to do at this point. Anytime something comes up about WG&L, Nathan Davis always jumps up and proclaims, 'WG&L does not own anything.' Now they're trying to say we 'own' the manufactured gas plant. Well, that's just not true. That facility was owned by the city of Albany. We agreed to share the cost with them, but now they're reneging on their own agreement."

Comments

Abytaxpayer 1 year, 3 months ago

Mr. Edwards thank you, it has been a pleasure to work with you and WG&L through the years. While I do not blame you for retiring, sadly your leaving removes one more professional person from the management of Albany. It is shameful that the commission fights against a professional while supporting the likes of Pike. Albany's Commision is "Pro Business" they run off the Pros and give us the Business! The thief of MEAG was the start of big money for the city, so I guess we better brace for big rate increases once the commissioners put themselves in charge of WG&L. We see how well they run the city so we can’t expect any better for WG&L.

Again a big THANK YOU to Mr. Edwards.

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Cartman 1 year, 3 months ago

Abytaxpayer, you nailed it with that post. I join in a big THANK YOU to Mr. Edwards!

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jglass 1 year, 3 months ago

I would love to know what duplication of services WG&L and the City have. What city employees work on the power lines? What city employees work on gas lines? What city employees dig and repair busted water lines? I think the city needs to clean up their own "back yard" before they stick their noses in someone elses "back yard"! I have been reading the news articles the past few days and it is just crazy how our city leaders and commissioners and attorneys act. I am ashamed of our leadership in Albany.

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ustaknow 1 year, 3 months ago

Mr. Edwards has done an outstanding job of running WG&L

I regret this move and hope the city does not screw up the finances of the WG&L

Mr Edwards, May you enjoy your retirement to the fullest

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bigbob 1 year, 3 months ago

The useless commisioners just want to get their hands on the money WG&L have saved, thats all they care about. Mr. Edwards is smart to get out, I just wish he would make public all the backdoor politics in Albany.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 3 months ago

Just want that surplus money like the federal government wanted to get out social security which they stole and expect older folks to just roll over. The average American is not going to take much more. They can only take so much and the federal government is going to be surprised at the masses. Get ready!

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Moe 1 year, 3 months ago

Nathan Davis is a nut.

Robert Limp-staff is an anti-business fanatic who supported job-killer Judy "Toilet" Bowles and her sign ordinance.

Tommy Postell is a racist and a buffoon.

Feel better about your city with these three having their hands in the til at WGL?

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 3 months ago

You forgot…… kite them“BAD CHECKS Pike”. At least he beat the Felony charges, see being a commissioner in the town does mean something…..

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CaptMurdock 1 year, 3 months ago

So if the city takes over WG&L who then becomes responsible for cleaning up the old plant? Hmmmmmm..

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Sammy14 1 year, 3 months ago

Lem Edwards will be missed. Albany ratepayers will be in for a huge rate increase if the City has it's way. WG&L will be bankrupt within a year if the City takes over. The City is going to spend thousands to find a "yes man" when they have a qualified replacement employed now. I feel for all of the present employees. I am sure Big Bob Langstaff is rolling over in his grave regarding his son's agenda

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FryarTuk 1 year, 3 months ago

It's too much to hope that Tommie Postell, Bob Langstaff, Milquetoast Marietta and Nathan Davis all have no issue to pass along their degenerative DNA strands. What pi - - poor protoplasm this incestuous nest of rogues offer to their progeny. They fully intend to dismantle the WG&L as an authority and run it out of their hip pockets like a city department. Look how many city employees we have and how many were added under Willie Adams and Alfred Lott. Cousins, buddies, aunts, nephews, in-laws they are replete on the city payroll. James Taylor is a good man but he is not capable of handling the city and WG&L. He is struggling very hard with the harpies on the commission and who wouldn't. Lem Edwards manages them and, if you remember, did handle both under Adams and did a hell of a job. The city has slid backwards with the loss of Lem Edwards. There is not a person of character or achievement to step in his place or speak to the community's needs in all of bowels of city administration. We have lost a strong helmsman for no reason other than sick, corrupt politics.

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dingleberry 1 year, 3 months ago

Edwards made a good decision since life is too short to put up with crap like this. A situation very much like Guy Craft on the Library Board and David Maschke on the BOE experienced. Eventually, one can take only so much and the good guys leave the ilk behind to manage Albany's fall the rest of the way to the bottom.

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LoneCycler 1 year, 3 months ago

Here’s a translation of commissioner Langstaff’s remarks for those of you not fluent in Italian: “That’s a nice business you have going on over there at WG&L. It’d be a shame if one of my buddies on the Georgia Bar sued you for violating public contract rules. You could wind up paying millions. You better think twice before refusing to hand over the keys to the building to me and my partners on the city commission.” It’s amazing that a commissioner would feel safe making such thuggish statements for everyone to hear.

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