Though Steve Dimmitt is serving as the interim director, the city of Fort Smith is looking for a new director of Information & Technology Systems (ITS). ITS Director Russell Gibson resigned in mid-October.
Gibson’s last day on the job was Oct. 15, and he is now working with The Nature Conservancy. As to why he left, Gibson told Talk Business & Politics that after more than 20 years with the city he wanted to do something different.
“I just thought it was a good time to do something else, and do what I love and do it from wherever in the world I wanted to do it,” said Gibson, who still lives in Fort Smith.
Gibson worked for the city for from April 1997 to January 1998, August 1998 to April 2005 and February 2007 to November 2021. He was initially hired as an engineering technician and held the position of director of ITS for 14 years. When he left the city, his annual salary was about $109,000, according to the city’s human resources department.
“Russell Gibson’s tenure as ITS Director was the second time he worked for the city and he was ITS Director for well over a decade,” said Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken. “He helped guide the modernization of the City’s technology and was well respected by many throughout the City.”
Geffken said the search for a new ITS director is “coming along.”
“We are conducting a nationwide search to insure the City hires a person who can continue and expand upon the technological needs of the City,” he said.
Gibson’s departure leaves two department head positions open in the city. Kyle Foreman, director of solid waste services for the City of Fort Smith, left his job at the city May 14, 2021, for a position in Billings, Mont.
“We are at the same position with the solid waste director employment search, though that search is a little further on in the process,” Geffken said.
The city also created a new stand-alone Community Development Department that is advertising for a director. Matt Jennings is heading this group until a candidate is selected, Cooper said.
“The purpose of the City’s Community Development Department is to deliver services to the low income citizens in a timely manner while being responsible for administering the costs and charges related to the planning and implementation of community development projects funded, in part or whole, by the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the HOME Investments Partnership Act,” the city’s website states.
The city had a slew of department heads leave in 2019. Wally Bailey, who worked under six Fort Smith city administrators, retired in June 2019 as the city’s director of planning to become the director of planning for the City of Van Buren. Finance Director Jennifer Walker resigned in July of that year to take a job in Colorado. George Allen, director of streets and traffic control, resigned in August 2019. John Settle, who served as the city’s prosecuting attorney for 11 years, died Oct. 26, 2019, after suffering a heart attack.
Danny Baker was named the new police chief in September 2019, following a nationwide search to replace Chief Nathaniel Clark, who resigned his position in April of that year.
The city’s Department of Development Services was split into two separate departments – the Department of Development Services, which includes Planning & Zoning and Community Development, and the Department of Building Services, which includes Building Safety and Neighborhood Services. Maggie Rice was promoted to director of development services and Jimmie Deer was promoted to director of building services.
Matt Meeker was named the director of streets and traffic and Lance McAvoy was named the director of utilities. Andrew Richards was named the director of finance in early 2020. Former District Judge Sam Terry began as the city prosecutor in January 2021.