Jackson, Mississippi appoints new Public Works Director to improve troubled water system

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — As the most populous city in Mississippi attempts to improve its troubled water system, it has appointed a new interim director to lead the agency that runs local infrastructure.

photo of Jackson, Mississippi

City Engineer Robert Lee was named interim director of the Jackson Public Works Department Friday as Jackson begins a nationwide search to find a permanent candidate to fill the position.

“This is a big responsibility in our city given our challenges, and the city is grateful for Mr. Lee’s interest in taking on the job,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a news release. “I have full trust in his decision-making, knowledge and skills moving forward.”

Over the past few years, repeated breakdowns have upended consistent access to safe running water in Jackson, which is also the state capital. The crisis culminated in late August and early September when the system came to near collapse and most people in the city of 150,000 went several days without running water. Some lost water again after a cold snap in December.

Justin Vicory, a city spokesperson, said in a news release that the move to promote Lee is taking place as the city “re-envisions” the role of the public works department following the appointment of third-party administrator, Ted Henifin. A federal court appointed Henifin, a former public works director from Virginia, the interim manager of the water system to carry out a list of reforms.

Lee will be the department’s first director in months, WLBT-TV reported. The previous interim director, Jordan Hillman, now works for JXN Water, the company recently formed by Henifin to oversee the city’s water department and water billing department.

Lee began working for the city of Jackson as a civil engineer nearly 20 years ago. He was eventually promoted to city engineer.

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