PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) - WSFA 12 News was first to confirm that Prattville mayor Jim Byard, Jr. will soon resign his position as the city's top elected official.
The mayor will resign effective Monday, January 17th at 5:00pm. Governor-elect Dr. Robert Bentley made the announcment official.
Byard appeared on WSFA 12 News at 6:00pm to officially comment on his immenent departure from the job, joining Governor-elect Bentley's administration as Director of ADECA, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
"I am grateful for the confidence Governor-elect Bentley has placed in me with this appointment. As mayor, I am keenly aware of the vital role ADECA plays in assisting Alabama communities in providing basic, essential services to their citizens. I look forward to working with the dedicated men and women of ADECA as we help our state continue to grow and prosper," Byard explained.
Byard is leaving office under a cloud of controversy, however. In October 2010 it was learned that the city would have to borrow more than $3 million to satisfy a bond payment that helped lure retail development to the city and provide for capital improvements. Though the city council ultimately voted to approve the borrowing, council members expressed their dissatisfaction with how things were handled. Byard disagreed with the council's sentiments saying his administration had been "very forthcoming".
"I have sincerely enjoyed serving the citizens of my hometown for the past 18 years...Our leadership team has accomplished much during that time, and I am proud of the way we worked together to move our city forward," Byard said.
Byard took over the rapidly growing city of Prattville just ten miles north of the state capital in 1999 when the sitting mayor passed away. He'd previously held the position of Council President. When sworn into the top job after an election in 2000, Byard became the youngest-elected mayor in city history. He was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.
Byard has a long history with Prattville and the surrounding area, having moved to the city when he was just 4-years-old. He was just 26-years-old when he won his first election to the City Council.
City Council Pro Tem Bill Gillespie will take over as acting mayor upon Byard's resignation.
WHO IS BILL GILLESPIE, JR?
The man who will take over as acting mayor of Prattville is no stranger to the Preferred Community. Gillespie's family has owned an auto service and repair shop in Prattville since 1955. Gillespie started work in the family business in 1970 and took over management in 1980.
The businessman was elected to the Prattville City Council District 1, following his father in the city's political circle. Bill Gillespie, Sr. served on the council from 1984-1992.
Gillespie is married and has two children.
Prattville's next leader was a vocal critic of Byard's during the October 2010 Council decision to borrow $3.1 million, going so far as to call the mayor "disingenuous".
He'll take over the mayor's office on Monday, January 17th.