CEO of McNairy County Economic Development and Chamber of Commerce Eddie Crittendon’s contract has been extended for two more years, following a McNairy County Joint Economic Development Partnership Board meeting Thursday afternoon that was rife with tension.

Crittendon’s position, which he took in 2015, was up for negotiation after his original re-negotiation—scheduled for 2019—was delayed, then extended for one year, bringing them to this meeting.

The nine-person board—including Heather Lott, John Smith, Jai Templeton, Larry Smith, Rhodes Platt, Larry Russel, Wes Landreth, Matt Wood and Chairman John Bowers—voted four to three to extend Crittendon’s contract.

Board members Lott, John Smith, Russel and Wes Landreth voted for the extension, while Larry Smith, Platt and Templeton voted against it.

This vote came after the original proposition of shifting Crittendon to a three-month contract with a plan to implement an incentive-based pay scale—a proposition that was voted down, also at four to three, along the same lines.

Larry Smith, who presented the proposition of the three-month, incentive-based position, also advocated for a more concrete job description for Crittendon.

Platt agreed.

 “Goals work,” he said, to which Crittendon nodded in agreement. “I can tell you, as a manager, goals work.”

“We’ve battled this back and forth for a couple years,” said Crittendon, in his comments prior to voting. “I feel like I, and a host of other people, feel like we have moved the dial forward in so many different directions.”

“I’m not happy with a three-month contract,” he added. “I feel like we’re back in the same boat we were in before….everything that has been asked, I feel like, from this office, has been agreed on. And I’m just not on board with a three-month contract.”

After the three-month contract proposition was voted down, and the two-year extension proposed, Larry Smith ardently expressed his disproval.

 “So we’re okay with where we’re at, with the industrial development of McNairy County? That’s what this board is saying?” asked Smith. “All that I asked for here today was an incentive-based program…to set goals and objectives to try and improve that. So that’s what we’re saying here today?”

Despite Larry Smith’s strong statements, Crittendon’s contract was extended. As Crittendon gave a closing remark to the matter and expressed his willingness to discuss job descriptors, Larry Smith and Jai Templeton abruptly walked out of the meeting.

Items were still on the agenda that needed addressing.

Approached later regarding the meeting, Larry Smith reiterated his frustrations.

“To say that it didn’t go my way and that it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, you know, it absolutely did not,” he said resolutely.  “Like I said, in the last statement I said at the meeting, ‘So this committee is okay with McNairy County having the lowest number of employed people ever in (its) history, since record keeping?’”

Here he cited data from the bureau of labor statistics.

“You have to change that,” he added. “And the only way you’re going to change that is—it doesn’t make sense to me to continue to fund a program that has not delivered positive change. You have to have change. You know, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. So I think (the contract change) was a very reasonable request.”

Larry continued, describing it as a “slap in the face.”

“It’s beyond me why anyone would say no to wanting to move our county forward,” he said. “That’s what we’re all supposed to be about, that’s what we’re all supposed to be doing.”

When asked about his conduct upon leaving the meeting, Larry did not think his actions were out of line.

“I didn’t storm out of the meeting,” he said. “I just heard all I wanted to hear. I just got up and walked out and left. And Jai didn’t (storm out) either.”

When also informed that there had been another item on the meeting agenda, Larry seemed surprised.

“Was there? I forgot.” He said. “Didn’t matter at that point anyway.”

“I’ve beat myself up over this, and I’ve worked hard to try to change what’s going on in our county,” he continued. Things won’t change, he added,  “until we get the mindset that we want to be proactive about things rather than simply support the good ole boy system.”

Templeton, regarding his hasty departure, later stated that he had received a text regarding a farming emergency that he had to attend to, and that his leaving was not related to Larry Smith’s departure, nor the outcome of the vote.

“I got a text that a piece of equipment broke down,” he said. “I did not realize when I got to the door—that’s when I heard footsteps, and obviously other people were stepping out as I did.”

Crittendon had some thoughts following the meeting as well.

“I don’t have a problem with (incentivized goals),” he expressed. “But I meant what I said when I said it felt like a slap in the face after all the good announcements and projects and money and things that we have made for the county.”

“They presented what they wanted to do, and it was voted down,” he added.

Crittendon did feel unease regarding the tension present at the meeting.

“It’s unfortunate anytime you have a non-unanimous vote going forward,” he said. “On one hand, you go to a meeting and you have the highest county official and he says in a meeting ‘Eddie does his job, Eddie can do his job, I know he can do the job,’ and then he votes against you? So it’s discouraging. But I’m glad they did vote to extend my contract, and we’re going to work just as hard for Adamsville, as we do for Selmer as we do for Stantonville, as we do for any other community in this county.”

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