Greenwood Mayor Del Gabbard resigned last week, citing medical problems and “the toll that this job has taken over the past two years.”
In a resignation letter that city officials received Tuesday morning, Gabbard, who just began the last year of a four-year term, said it’s “not in my nature to quit a job before it is completed.”
“But given my medical problems and the toll that this job has taken over the past two years, I owe this decision to my family,” Gabbard wrote.
He added that he’s “extremely proud of the record we have built together.”
“We have turned a corner,” he wrote. “My only regret is that I will not be able to be beside you to see our work through to an end. I do believe that we have built a fiscal foundation upon which Greenwood can grow to new heights.”
He signed his resignation letter “Del Gabbard, private citizen.”
The Greenwood City Council met in special session Tuesday afternoon to officially accept Gabbard’s resignation. City Councilman and mayor pro tem Jimmy Gossett will take over day-to-day operations until an election.
“I was surprised,” Gossett said of Gabbard’s decision. “But I will say that Greenwood has a good bunch of people running the departments. I don’t think you’ll see a change at all in the way business is done in Greenwood.”
In Greenwood’s form of government, the mayor is the chief administrator, responsible for the general management of the city. City Attorney Mike Hamby said a special election will be held to fill the vacancy.
“We’re going to have to call a special election according to the statute if there’s more than six months left on a mayor’s term,” Hamby said.
Gabbard took office in 2011 after defeating a former city councilman, Bill McAlister, in the November 2010 election. At the time, he said he was tired of Greenwood’s “negative reputation” and was determined to restore a system of “admirable politics” to the city.
Since his victory, the mayor and members of the City Council have at times been at odds over various issues.
“This council needs to get along with the mayor, and it was always awkward to say the least,” Councilman Tim Terry said. “I wish the guy well if he’s ill. But in the long run, I guess, it’s a positive move for the city.”
Former councilman Jim Newcomb said he appreciated Gabbard’s effort in office.
“We haven’t borrowed any money, and without a council that really worked with him at all, he still got a lot accomplished,” Newcomb said. “I know he always had an open-door policy. If anybody had a complaint who walked in, he’d sit down and listen to it.”
Just before Tuesday’s special meeting adjourned, Councilman Lance Terry said, “I just want to say this is probably one of the better days Greenwood, Ark., is ever going to have.”
Longtime Greenwood resident Raymond Kennedy took exception to the remark.
“Even though he does not like the mayor, I would not have made the comment because the man has to run for re-election,” Kennedy said. “To me, it was poor of a city councilman.”
Kennedy added that despite disagreements with council members, Gabbard “did a lot of good for the city.”
“There were problems between the council and the mayor that have been going on since he was elected,” Kennedy said. “I hope now everybody will quit fighting and work for the city.”
Gabbard did not attend Tuesday’s meeting and did not return multiple calls seeking comment as of press time Tuesday.
Due to Gabbard’s abrupt disappearance from City Hall and the City of Greenwood’s history with scandal in the Mayor’s office, questions have been asked about reasons behind the Mayor’s resignation. According to both Police Chief Will Dawson and City Attorney Mike Hamby, “There are no charges, accusations or investigations involving Del Gabbard in the City of Greenwood.”
In late 2012 and early 2013, Gabbard was out of action for about three months after suffering from pancreatitis and having gall-bladder removal surgery. Gabbard has admitted to pain and other health issues since that surgery as well as a recommendation from his doctor to eliminate the stress the Mayor’s office has been causing him.
An election for Greenwood’s vacant mayoral seat will likely be held in May, according to City Clerk Sharla Derry and City Attorney Mike Hamby.
“There’s a primary in May,” City Clerk Sharla Derry said. “I’m almost certain we’re going to put it on that primary election. It will save a great deal of money.”
The election, Derry said, will be a topic of discussion at the Greenwood City Council’s next monthly meeting, Feb. 3.
“Holding the election in May with the primaries is the cheapest way to go for the City,” Mike Hamby explained. “If we do it before then, it could cost the City thousands of dollars.”
The deadlines for filing to run for Mayor won’t be set until the date of the election is official.