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Boyles to be city manager for a month
Penny starts July 1
Boyles
Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles

Jason Boyles, one of two Statesboro interim assistant city managers since December and the city's director of public works and engineering, has a new one-month assignment, as city manager.

After a brief closed-door session during the May 21 regular public meeting, City Council appointed Boyles interim city manager for June 1–30. The action clarifies who will be in the manager role after Friday, when City Manager Randy Wetmore's retirement takes effect, and before the July 1 start date of Charles W. Penny's contract to be the new city manager.

"Jason Boyles was, clear-cut, a person that we knew for a fact would be able to serve well in that role," Mayor Jonathan McCollar said this week. "So as soon as the doors closed, pretty much, his name was the first and only name to come up, and we're really excited about just having the opportunity to get a staff member that  the current  staff really trusts and really believes in, in that interim role."

The vote was 5-0 on a motion from District 5 Councilman Derek Duke seconded by District 4 Councilman John Riggs.

"I am honored to have the opportunity to support our staff and lead the city through the city manager transition," Boyles said this week. "My plan is to continue work on items that are already in progress and to be able to put them into a position that makes it easy for the next city manager, Mr. Charles Penny, to walk in and hit the ground running."

Boyles, 42, holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering technology and a Master of Public Administration, both from Georgia Southern University. He began work with the city in 2001 as an assistant city engineer and became director of public works and engineering in August 2015.

He did not attend last week's meeting, which he noted is a rarity and cited a prior personal commitment. Both Boyles and the other interim assistant city manager, Frank Neal, planning and development director, report to the council at most meetings, and Neal was there last week.

Interim assistants

Last fall, Wetmore proposed hiring two permanent "assistant" managers instead of one "deputy" manager to replace former Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire, who resigned in August for a job with a local engineering firm.

Council authorized the two assistant manager positions by a 3-1 voted in early October. At that time, the proposal to add one next-to-top staff position was questioned by District 2 Councilman Sam Lee Jones, who voted against it, and McCollar, who suggested hiring more street-level city workers should be the priority.

But after the council in November unanimously awarded Wetmore a new Jan. 1–May 31 contract concluding with his retirement, he appointed Boyles and Neal as interim assistant city managers. This was done without adding any staff members, and McCollar spoke supportively of the appointments.

Penny due July

A search conducted through Developmental Associates LLC, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, led to the council's unanimous May 7 decision to hire Penny as Statesboro's city manager beginning July 1 with an annual salary of $159,000. He and his wife are moving here from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where he retired in 2017 as city manager, capping a total of 35 years in managerial roles for North Carolina city governments.

At first, McCollar had said he hoped the city of Statesboro could operate through June with the two assistant managers. But a memo from City Attorney Cain Smith in last week's council packet noted a City Charter passage which states that the mayor and council "shall" fill "any" vacancy in the city manager position.

Both applied

Boyles said he "looks forward to working for Mr. Penny and in conjunction with Frank (Neal) to carry these projects forward."

Both Boyles and Neal had applied for the permanent city manager job. In fact, Neal was one of the four candidates interviewed by the council, which afterward named Penny as the only formal finalist. 

After the list of 45 initial applicants had been narrowed to 12, Boyles had notified officials that he was withdrawing from consideration, but he made the cut to six candidates before the search firm got the word, McCollar said. Boyles said he then withdrew again.

Neal and Boyles each received a raise to $100,000 a year to be interim assistant city managers. Now Boyles steps into the interim manager role for 30 days with no further increase in pay. Smith's memo had stated the budget impact as "none."

The mayor and council members have said they will let Penny decide whether there will be two assistant city managers going forward or some other arrangement. 

"That's going to be totally left up to Mr. Penny," McCollar said. "In these cases, you know, the person that we hire we deem as the professional, and so we want to lean toward their expertise in the decision-making role."

Statesboro's city government employs about 300 people. The police and fire chiefs, as well the heads of utilities, services and public works departments and financial and human resources offices answer to the city manager.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.