By Josh Troy
When Clarksdale Public Works Director Todd Jones joined the department 32 years ago, he quickly realized there would be many opportunities to run the equipment. Jones, who held five different positions before being promoted to the Public Works Director approximately 16 years ago, will be retiring at the end of the month. Assistant Director of Public Works Craig Amerson will succeed Jones as the director. Jones, a Coahoma County Jr/Sr. High School graduate, held several jobs before working for the City of Clarksdale. He sacked groceries at Wong’s Foodland, was a department manager at a Home Depot in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the department manager at a local business with lumber building material, and was a mold relief man at Cooper Tire.
Jones began working for the City of Clarksdale after leaving Cooper Tire.
Jones’ first position with the Public Works Department was a shovel man. He became a truck driver, was promoted to equipment operator and heavy equipment operator, and worked his way up to become the street manager. After serving as the street manager, Jones was named the Public Works Director.
“I just sort of liked the work,” he said. “Actually, running the equipment, I really liked it. That’s what kept me here, the equipment operating.”
While Jones has worn many hats in the Public Works Department, how things have functioned has not changed much during Jones’ 32-year tenure. “People have told me you’ve done a good job with Public Works,” he said. “We’re doing exactly the same thing we did when I first came here 32 years ago.”
Looking back on the past 32 years, Jones said one of the most challenging times for the department came during the major ice storm in Feb. 1994. He was a truck driver at the time. “I didn’t ever have any time off,” he said. “When it first hit, we pretty much worked seven days a week from daylight to dark. We stayed on seven days for a couple of months and they finally gave us Sundays off. Then, it sort of trickled and started getting Saturdays off, but we were still working from daylight to dark. For three to three-and-a-half months, it was pretty hectic.”
Four Mayors led the City of Clarksdale during Jones’ tenure. Former Mayor Henry Espy initially hired Jones 32 years ago and eventually promoted him to Public Works Director. “The only one (mayor) I really had dealings with was Henry,” Jones said. “Actually, Henry came to me about being the director. I turned him down three times and the fourth time I took it.”
The late Richard Webster and the late Bill Luckett also served as Mayor during Jones’ tenure. Jones has worked for current Mayor Chuck Espy since 2017. After taking office, Chuck Espy made several changes at department head positions but kept Jones as the Public Works Director.
Jones said he appreciated Chuck Espy’s confidence in keeping him as the Public Works Director.
Jones’ wife, Shirley, died a year and a half ago, but the support she provided him through the years helped him succeed. “I had all the support from her that anybody could have wanted,” he said. Jones has fond memories with the Public Works Department but said he worked enough years to be able to receive 13 retirement checks in a year. “You’ve got to have at least 28 years to be eligible for the 13th check to have a lump sum,” he said.
Jones said he plans to find another position where he will be working with equipment. He felt the Public Works Department would be in good hands under Amerson’s leadership. “He knows the job,” Jones said. “Actually, you could say Craig knew more about it than I do, and he knows more about the administrative end than I do.”