Hammock: The foundations for success are laid, but problems remain | New

John Hammock is not even two years into his second term as mayor and is leaving with his head held high.

In a term and a half, Mayor Hammock thinks Tallassee has accomplished a lot, but said big city management issues remain. Hammock said the city hit its borrowing limit when he took office in 2016, but through a lot of hard work things have turned around.

“Financially, the city is in much better shape,” Hammock said. “They were barely making payroll. We stepped in, restructured some bonds at a lower rate. We were able to manage the budget in a fiscally responsible way. There have been many contract renegotiations with our suppliers.

Those negotiations put about $750,000 into the city’s coffers a year and began to cover much of the city’s utility under-recovery where Hammock said the city was losing more than $1 million a year. year.

“What I did when I walked in was run this place like a business,” Hammock said. “The police department was in shambles. I was very involved.

Other successes have occurred in improving infrastructure on finished projects such as the storm water drainage system at Emfinger to full planning.

“It’s chess, not checkers,” Hammock said. “A lot of the elect think they won’t be around in four years and think about what’s going to benefit me now.”

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Godwin thanked Hammock for his service, agreeing that Hammock did Tallassee better.

“I know we’ve all been through rough waters over the past year,” Godwin said. “We must give credit where it is due. Johnny brought a business approach to the city. Much has been accomplished and will be accomplished through his efforts. »

Hammock said he used his criminal justice degree to transform the police department by getting new vehicles, body cameras, body armor and guns. At the same time, Hammock was delving into how to bring finance and improvements to Tallassee.

“I was working 70 hours a week,” Hammock said. “I’ve been more accomplished with my department heads over the past six years than anyone over the past decades.”

These achievements are the fruit of frequent studies.

“I busted my ass to get an education, to help serve this city,” Hammock said. “The reason I was so successful is that I went to everything the league of municipalities had. I became a board member. All the breakout sessions, EDA lectures, I’ve been there. I took knowledge from other cities there and brought it back here.

Hammock said he has earned certifications for grant writing, economic development, planning and zoning, and gas pipeline safety.

“I educated myself to be the best city manager I could be,” Hammock said. “I really think that’s what this city needs.”

With the successes came struggles, particularly between Hammock and the Tallassee City Council. In November, the board removed Hammock as superintendent of utilities. With the loss of the date, Hammock lost $50,000 in salary. The decision to quit was also personal. Hammock said he had to look to his future.

“I lost two-thirds of my salary,” Hammock said. “I lost my family’s insurance. I have to pay almost $1,400 a month for COBRA insurance. I lost my RSA pension. I have to go back to the private sector to earn money.

Hammock said the move also left him almost powerless as mayor.

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“When I won re-election in 2020, it wasn’t for my bubbly personality,” Hammock said. “I was re-elected to lead a city. I am no longer that. I feel like I’m a conservative and fiscally responsible, I don’t think it’s fair for the city to pay me $25,000 a year when the council won’t let me do anything. They kind of have my hands tied. They want to micromanage everything, while the majority only show up for a few meetings a month. People want to take my position and slit my throat at the risk of the city.

Hammock said the personality clashes are causing problems with city management and will hopefully go away soon.

“My view of operational control and how they want to run the city just doesn’t fit.” said Hammock. “I don’t think it’s good for the city anymore that I’m mayor. Maybe if I leave, maybe the next mayor will appoint them full-time so they have some type of operational control. It’s like being the head coach and the assistant coaches aren’t there for practices trying to call plays during the game.

Hammock said he no longer felt able to do an effective job as mayor with the restrictions imposed by the council.

“I’m not a control freak at all, but I’m a hands-on operator,” Hammock said. “I just can’t do my job effectively as a mayor sitting on the sidelines when they don’t value my opinion anymore.”

Hammock said his decisions were based on what’s best for many, not just one.

“My vision and their vision don’t match right now,” Hammock said. “The decisions I made were always what was best for Tallassee as a whole and not for certain people, not for certain groups of people. Sometimes in local politics the creakiest wheel gets grease. I’m not all about it.

Hammock believes he helped lay the groundwork for Tallassee’s future, but Tallassee’s future could easily slip back.

“It’s hard when you see the road map you want to follow and if the board isn’t working with you and you can’t get anywhere, what’s the point of me being here?” said Hammock. “I have a lot of other communities, when I go to the League of Municipalities asking, ‘How do you get all these grants?’ They don’t know how to connect the dots.

Hammock said he saw an opportunity for himself through his consultancy business he started last year. Hammock said he already has local customers such as HDD and Unicus in Tallassee and other municipalities and engineering companies are inquiring.

“I can make a lot more money in the private sector and help other communities and help Alabama move forward than I can here in Tallassee,” Hammock said. “I have a servant’s heart. I like big picture planning, strategic planning and capital improvement planning. I love doing that kind of stuff and letting the city grow.

Hammock said Friday, July 1, the day after his resignation took effect, that he will likely register as a lobbyist.

“I can push as an elected official,” Hammock said. “I have a good relationship with legislators, state officials, and the governor’s office. These are things I did as mayor of Tallassee but I lose them when I step down.

Hammock has no intention of leaving Tallassee.

“Even though I’m not here, I live here and own a business here,” Hammock said. “We’re just going to try to grow Urban Tails and my consulting business.”

Hammock hopes that in 10 years, his consulting business will be recognized as one of the “leading consultants in economic development, community development and strategic planning in the South East”, built around his hard work and the knowledge acquired in as mayor, but said he would not be visible.

“I want to be the man behind the scenes, helping other people,” Hammock said. “I paid for my pound of flesh and my family too through the media, now is the time for me to be behind the scenes helping others.”

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