Jackson County

Man who helps keep Ocean Springs running is leaving the city

The man who holds it all together for the city, public works Director Johnny Groue, is resigning to take a top job with the Jackson County Utility Authority.

He told the Sun Herald it’s a little more pay, but “I couldn’t refuse that job, with the budget restraints here, the equipment shortage and the cutbacks — it’s time to make a move.”

He has been offered the position of deputy director of Utility Authority.

Groue, who has been with Ocean Springs for 14 years, has served as assistant director of public works and has been director for the last two years. He said he had been thinking over the offer for the past couple of weeks. He will leave the city Jan. 4.

I couldn’t refuse that job, with the budget restraints here, the equipment shortage and the cutbacks — it’s time to make a move.

Johnny Groue

It’s been tough in the Public Works Department. In his letter of resignation, he points out he appreciates his team of “hardworking, skilled men and women who take pride in their job” and have supported him.

“... we blossomed as a team and have accomplished great things to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Ocean Springs. Most of which was done with little budget, undermanned and with failing equipment.”

The city has had budget constraints since aldermen voted to lower taxes by 2 mills in 2009, costing the city about $400,000 a year and causing leaders to eliminate jobs through attrition. The city has also dealt with critically low cash reserves.

Groue said a critical point for his department also was losing the 14 inmates the city had been able to get from the state for help in the department with general tasks around town. Jackson County decided the inmate program wasn’t cost effective.

Public works handles water, sewer, streets, drainage, maintenance, beautification and the central shop.

The department has 42 employees who maintain 186 miles of streets, in addition to 8,400 water and sewer customers. Employees must be available 24 hours every day to deal with unexpected problems. The department also has the responsibility for hurricane preparedness and pre-storm preparations.

Public works crews set up barricades for parades and other events and work overtime to clean up after them.

At times, aldermen have considered Groue’s position as one of the most important in the city.

“I’m excited about the new challenges I will face,” he said in his letter, but said he has regrets about leaving the men and women of the Public Works Department.