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Two department heads will be leaving North Little Rock city government next month and another will begin taking military leave for future overseas deployment, Mayor Joe Smith said Monday.

City Finance Director Karen Scott said she is moving to a new position with Benton Utilities, the electric and water utility for the city of Benton. Sanitation Director Harold Ford is retiring. May 17 is the last day for both.

Isaac Henry, the city's Fit2Live director and a captain in the Army National Guard, is leaving his position May 10. He will be deployed for nine months to Afghanistan, due to return early next year.

Smith said on Monday that he found out about Ford and Scott's departure exactly a week before. He left the next morning for a National League of Cities meeting in Lexington, Ky., and was gone the rest the week.

"It wasn't a good day around here for me, to have Harold retire and Karen resigned," Smith said of the day he learned he would lose two key employees. "I've got that challenge to replace Karen and Harold both. We're going to be working feverishly on that for the next two to three months."

Scott, 55, was the first department head Smith hired from outside North Little Rock government after taking office Jan. 1, 2013. Scott, along with Chief of Staff Danny Bradley, has an annual salary of $107,517 and is the highest-paid city employee behind the mayor. She began the job May 1, 2013.

"She really had her hands on the dollars and certainly made my job a lot easier," Smith said of Scott. "She watched the money, and she's sharp as a tack."

Scott came to North Little Rock from being finance director for Benton, which at that time oversaw budgets for both city government and its municipal utilities. With the establishment of a chief financial officer for Benton Utilities, Benton called to offer Scott the job, she said.

"This opportunity is just at a time that I know for a lot of people, including the mayor, is not a very opportune time," Scott said. "I didn't feel like I could pass it up. I already know the job and almost all of the people there, and it was nice to be pursued."

It also is a move closer to home for Scott, who commutes daily to North Little Rock from Magnet Cove in Hot Spring County.

"The drive had a lot to do with it," Scott said. "It's about 25 miles, one-way, closer. It will probably cut my commute by about an hour a day total."

Ford, 64, has been North Little Rock's sanitation director for almost 18 years, having started on the day before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, moving from being sanitation director with Pulaski County, he said Monday. A job posting for his position went up on the city website last week.

Ford said Monday that he is retiring to deal with health problems and to "de-stress."

"My health is going downhill," Ford said. "I've been struggling with some complications from Type 2 diabetes. Both my health and the need to de-stress are the biggest reasons for the retirement."

"We wish him well in his retirement," Smith said, noting Ford's health issues.

Ford said he will help with the transition to a new director.

"I'm just giving them a little chance to get somebody in here," he said. "I'll be in and out, basically give them some assistance one day a week to let them get somebody acclimated and trained as to what it takes to do in this office. Let some young blood come in here and get the experience to run this place."

Smith said Robert Birch, special assistant to the mayor, and Jim Billings, director of special projects, will fill in for Henry. All three work in the same City Hall office with Communications Director Nathan Hamilton.

"We'll be OK there," Smith said. "Robert and Mr. Billings are going to kind of slide over a little bit and make sure that the Fit2Live program continues for the next eight months. Isaac will then be back at the first of the year."

Metro on 04/30/2019

Print Headline: 2 department chiefs set to leave North Little Rock positions

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