Tale of two clerks: City bids farewell to longtime employee, welcomes new city clerk

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015

new year: From left, Jane O’Neal will take up where Jody Stuart left off as city clerk.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

new year: From left, Jane O’Neal will take up where Jody Stuart left off as city clerk.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

For 30 years, Poplarville residents and city leaders have seen city clerk Jody Stuart’s smiling face upon entering the doors of City Hall.
On Dec. 31, Stuart will be resigning from her duties to begin her new career in January as court administrator for Pearl River County’s Place III Circuit Judge Buddy McDonald.
Along with ringing in the New Year, the city will also welcome Jane O’Neal as Poplarville’s new city clerk.

Love for the people

Stuart was a senior at Poplarville High School and enrolled in their work program when she began her career with the city. During that time she assisted with processing water bills, accepted court fine payments and answered phones.
After Stuart graduated from high school, she was promoted to deputy clerk after the city clerk retired.
In January 2000, Stuart was named city clerk.
“I’m basically the city’s auditor,” Stuart said. “I oversee all other clerks, coordinate with other department heads to help formulate their budgets and act as a go-between for the departments, the public, the board and the mayor. I also attend all board meetings, take minutes and prepare all financial statements. Basically, I take care of anything that comes across my desk.”
When offered the new position, Stuart said she knew it was an opportunity that wouldn’t be available again. She can also continue in the state’s retirement system.
“I’m excited about the new position and have already sat in on several docket calls to get an idea,” Stuart said. “I’ve been checking emails and easing into the position.”
However, Stuart said she loves working at City Hall and can’t imagine what her life would have been like without the experience.
For Stuart, the public interaction has been the most rewarding part of her job.
“I made a lot of friends here,” she said. “I’ve also lost some. You watch them and their families grow up. You mourn each other’s losses. It would be difficult to spend 30 years in a place you didn’t enjoy. The employees here are fantastic. They love what they do and are good people. I’ve had the opportunity to serve under several leaders and they have all been excellent to work for and with. I love all the people I’ve come to know. This decision was not made without a lot of tears and prayers.”
Stuart said she has seen significant growth in Poplarville over the past 30 years and is excited to see what the mayor and board of aldermen have in store for the city’s future.

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Returning to her roots

O’Neal is a native of Stone County, specifically McHenry.
She has a bachelor of science from the University of Southern Mississippi in environmental technology and chemistry and a master of business administration degree from USM as well.
“I soon realized I was more people-oriented and not cut out for laboratory work,” she said. “But I also realized I needed to diversify my education to be more qualified for an array of jobs.”
In 1989, she was appointed Stone County’s first administrator, when state law required all counties to create the new position.
She also served for four years as Stone County’s chancery clerk.
“It was very interesting and rewarding work.” O’Neal said. “It ultimately provided me the experience and qualifications to serve as city clerk. Primarily, I applied for the job because I love governmental service, working with the public and my strong desire to return to South Mississippi.”
For the past 18 years, O’Neal worked in Birmingham, Alabama as quality control manager and accounting and corporate fixed asset manager for Coca-Cola. The position provided her with an in-depth accounting experience.
“I never knew that the experiences in Stone County and Birmingham would provide me the perfect mix to get a great job I enjoy and the opportunity to be near friends and family again. I’m most excited about being back in local government, interacting with people in the community and serving the mayor and board of aldermen. I’m very appreciative to the board for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to assisting them with their projects and working to bring great opportunities to the city. Jody has been an exceptional role model in preparing me for the job. I highly respect her expertise and her 30 years of service.”