Now in his second month as Statesboro's city manager, Charles W. Penny has some hiring to do. The city is currently short two department heads Penny would hire, and a third is leaving.
The first two vacancies stem from the previous promotion of two department heads to interim assistant city managers by former City Manager Randy Wetmore for his last six months on the job. Both remained department heads during their interim assistant manager service, Jason Boyles as public works and engineering director and Frank Neal as planning and development director.
But Neal resigned effective the last week of June and is now the town administrator in Thunderbolt, the Chatham County town with the shrimp boat port, surrounded landward by Savannah. Meanwhile, Boyles served as Statesboro's interim city manager for the month of June by a unanimous vote of City Council. Then Penny appointed him to continue as assistant city manager.
"We've got some things that have got to get done," Penny said last week. "One of them is I promoted Jason Boyles to assistant manager, and we will only have one assistant city manager, and so when I made that promotion it opened up the position of director of public works and engineering, and we also have available the director of planning and development. We're recruiting for those."
More recently, Human Resources Director Flavia Starling submitted her resignation, to take effect Aug. 23.
"So I've got three department head positions I need to fill, and so we're using two different firms to help us with that," Penny said.
The Mercer Group, a management consulting firm incorporated in Georgia and operating nationwide, will assist in recruiting the public works and engineering director and the planning and development director. Developmental Associates, the North Carolina-based firm that conducted the city manager search that ended in Penny's hiring, will now assist him in recruiting a human resources director, he said.
Flavia Starling "had a career opportunity that was hard to turn down," Penny said. "We hate to see her go, but we certainly wish her the best."
Information on what that opportunity is would have to come from Starling, he said. A call and email Monday afternoon to her City Hall number and address were not returned by press time. Previously human resources coordinator, she was promoted to director after Jeffery Grant left in March 2018 to become Savannah's city human resources director.
The departure of the H.R. director increases the need for getting outside help to recruit for these key vacancies, said Boyles, who noted that two of the three are in departments he is now assigned to supervise.
In addition to those three vacancies, City Clerk Sue Starling will retire Aug. 31, as reported last week, but hiring a city clerk is the direct responsibility of City Council and Mayor Jonathan McCollar. Besides publishing meeting notices, keeping minutes and handling aspects of city elections, Statesboro's city clerk has overseen utility billing, taxes, business and alcoholic beverage licensing and city records.
Sue Starling is Flavia Starling's mother-in-law, but city officials suggested no connection between the two departures.
Penny said he hopes to fill all three vacancies by late October or in November.
"But we won't fill them till we find the right person," he said.
As assistant city manager, Boyles will have day-to-day oversight of the departments of public works and engineering, planning and development, central services and public utilities, Penny said. This means that their directors report to Boyles, but he in turn reports to Penny, who as city manager has hiring and firing authority over all of their assigned departments.
Penny will retain direct day-to-day oversight of the police, fire, finance and human resources departments.
Wetmore had sought to hire two assistant city managers, replacing one previous deputy city manager. But after Neal's departure, Penny decided the question in favor of making Boyles the one assistant manager, instead of a "deputy" manager.
Penny saw the "deputy" title as perhaps more appropriate for a leading assistant in a larger city staff and thinks that one assistant city manager is sufficient for Statesboro, he said. Here, the pay grade and responsibility are the same with either title, he noted.
But he does plan to hire a replacement for Boyles as public works and engineering director, instead of having him continue in a dual role.
"I am grateful for the continued trust and support of the city manager and mayor and City Council, as well as the staff," Boyles said last week. "I look forward to continuing to serve the organization and the community, now as assistant city manager."
He also commented that the vacancies are "a confluence of various things going on," with individuals making their own decisions, and "not a reflection on Mr. Penny."
Both Boyles and Neal had applied for the Statesboro city manager job, and Neal was one of the four candidates interviewed by the mayor and council. But they hired Penny, who had retired as city manager of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 2017.
Gone to Thunderbolt
Neal started work July 8 as Thunderbolt's town administrator, he confirmed in a call Monday. Neal first worked for Statesboro as a city planner in the 1990s and returned three years ago as planning and development director. Originally from Augusta, he attained his master's degree in public administration here, at Georgia Southern University.
"Statesboro has always been somewhat of a second home for me, going to graduate school there and working there previously, I always had positive experiences in Statesboro," Neal said. "I feel like during this last tenure that we had a lot of positive economic development growth that I was fortunate to be a part of, and I think that growth will continue in Statesboro as they move forward on the TADs (tax allocation districts) and all the other things."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.