As interviews for City Manager come to an end, qualified candidates seem prevalent. One such candidate is Grenadian and businessman Sidney Runnels.
Currently, Runnels is President of Garner-Harper Funeral Home, but he says that if selected as city manager he will totally commit to being a full time employee of the City of Grenada. Runnels says that he cares about Grenada and chose to live here for a reason.
"When I came here, I chose Grenada, because I though it had great potential," said Runnels.
In the past Runnels has worked in a number of positions including funeral director of Memphis Funeral Home, Director of Economic Development for the West Memphis Chamber of Commerce, mayor of the City of Canton, fine jewelry Consultant for J.C. Penney Company in Ridgeland, funeral director for Breeland Funeral Home in Canton, funeral director for Nowell-Flippin Funeral Home in Canton, and as a marketing representative for the New Hampshire Insurance Group in Jackson.
Runnels earned his diploma from Canton High School and he furthered his education by attending Holmes Community College in Goodman. He earned a bachelors degree in business administration from Delta State University and has since then participated in the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.
"I worked along with Sidney from 1979 to 1994, which allowed me the opportunity to see him in a professional setting, listen to and understand the processes he used to make rational decisions that were in the best interest of the people he served," said current Canton Mayor Fred Esco. "I feel that the same tenacity that he used while with the City of Canton will be transferred to any task that he is given to execute."
As mayor of Canton, Runnels was credited with a number of projects. In regards to city improvements, Runnels' experience enabled him to secure a $7 million EPA grant for new sewer lagoons, the development of city utility improvements with Canton Municipal Utilities board, he planned and opened a state-of-the-art solid waste landfill, he led the enforcement of new housing codes to eliminate substandard housing which led to the relocation of citizens to better housing conditions, instituted Allisons' Wells School of Arts and Crafts and incubator which was a downtown project, he assisted the FEMA with their efforts to relocate flood victims, constructed or renovated public facilities including an additional fire station, created additions to the police department as well as to the community center and a new cemetery, and he created image improvements that were established through downtown and citywide revitalization projects including the establishment of Historical Preservation Commission, Canton Redevelopment Authority, Canton Visitors and Tourism Bureau and Zoning and Planning Commission.
His experience has also led him to take part in sizable economic and industrial improvements while he served as Economic Developer for the City of West Memphis.
Runnels has worked with the Infinity Group, with their expansion of a current site. This project is located in Canton and it currently being prepared for the construction of several warehouses. Once this construction is complete, it has been estimated that the project will create a total of 1,500 new jobs.
He worked with Family Dollar Distribution Center, which constructed an addition that was 300,000 square feet totaling in 830,000 of warehouse space. The addition has a capital investment of $16 million and created 100 additional new jobs. Runnels also helped Mid-America Industrial Center work with Southwestern Bell officials to create a fiber-optic park costing around $400,000. He also took part in the construction of a new 3,600 square foot terminal and new hangars for West Memphis Municipal Airport, which can accommodate 58 planes. The capital investment of this project was $4.2 million. Runnels has also worked on many other projects for the City of West Memphis.
"I have known Mr. Runnels in a professional capacity for eight years. During that time he served as Director of Economic Development for the City of West Memphis, Arkansas. His record has been outstanding, and he has proven himself capable and efficient in promoting economic growth in our city," City of West Memphis Ward Four City Council Member Lorraine L. Robinson said.
"He accepts responsibility readily and carries out his duties with efficiency and dispatch. He seemed to have the ability to sense the needs of our city and made contributions to the whole picture," she added.
Runnels has participated in many aspects of community and he has received many awards for his accomplishment such as: Madison County Chamber of Commerce 1980 Man of the Year, City of Canton 1980 Outstanding Citizen Award, Most Supportive Person Award from the Canton Community Fellowship Choir, a participant of the Leadership Class of Arkansas State University, and Holmes Community College 1990 Alumnus of the Year.
"Sidney is dedicated to his Lord, his family and his work in all his activities. He leads an extremely close family, a very Christian family and a family with high moral values," City of West Memphis Mayor William H. Johnson said. "I would not hesitate to recommend Sidney for any position he applied for and always have a job open for him in West Memphis."
Runnels and his wife Mary Jane are the parents of three children Sy, Clara, and Jeffrey. He is an active member of Emmanuel Baptist Church. As a church member he also serves as Sanctuary Choir Member.
He says that being a Christian is important in all aspects of his life. He also believes in unity amongst all, government and otherwise.
"Every aspect of Grenada is important you know I've always said we've got four races in Grenada and that's North, South, East, and West and that's what we need to look at," said Runnels. "That's the only thing I consider. Everybody is a part of this city and race should never be an issue."
Runnels is an active member of the community. He believes that community involvement is key to having a positive community. Runnels serves as board chairman and chairman of the Ambassadors Committee of the Grenada County Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Southern Economic Development Council, a member of the Mississippi Funeral Directors Association, a Canto Elks Lodge member, recruiting committee and alumni Association member of Deltas State University, the Holmes Community College Alumni Association, and a member of the Grenada Rotary Club. Runnels says that he isn't afraid of challenges and that he hopes that his work ethic can be applied to the City of Grenada.
"I know that with anything that you try to do, there are challenges, but I think I see challenges as opportunities and that's what I see happening here in Grenada," Runnels said.
"We have to be visionaries to know that we can have a better place than what we have now."
Currently, the candidates for city manager are as follows: Inez Hankins, Richard H. Darby, Sidney M. Runnels, and Eileen Richardson.