Lee County Agri-Center director resigns

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Lee County Agri-Center Director Julia Viator resigned this month after 18 months at the helm of the facility she had been hired to transform.
Viator’s last day was Saturday. She had given notice on Oct. 5, according to Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson.
The Board of Supervisors accepted the resignation at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday. Until the board finds a replacement, Thompson will oversee operations at the 150,000-square-foot complex.
Two full-time employees also remain on staff.
Viator had been hired from a pool of applicants in April 2010 and tasked with turning the unprofitable center into a revenue generator – or at least make it break even.
The Agri-Center typically earns about $100,000 annually, but it requires a steady cash flow from the county to stay afloat. It got $280,000 the most current fiscal year from county coffers.
Although Viator had made progress improving the facility’s physical appearance, she wasn’t able to draw the kinds of events that increase revenues.
Her short tenure also had a few bumps. Viator came under fire by some supervisors for requesting a pay raise five months after her hire. Other supervisors approved it; she went from $38,000 to $45,000.
And more recently, she had taken a job in retail while still working at the Agri-Center. Viator noted this in her resignation letter.
“I feel that this is the most prudent decision due to the unstable environment of the Lee County Agri-Center,” Viator wrote, “and at the request of the Lee County Board of Supervisors that I choose between employment positions during an election year.”
Thompson said the board could vote as early as Nov. 7 to advertise for Viator’s replacement.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com