After 13 months as Statesboro’s interim city manager, Robert Cheshire has a new job title, deputy city manager, which will remain his after a new, permanent city manager is hired.
Having requested changes to the job description in July, City Council unanimously approved the new deputy manager’s position Tuesday. This was followed by another unanimous vote, appointing Cheshire to the job. Council authorized Mayor Jan Moore to negotiate the salary.
“Now that I know that it is official, I do want to say that I appreciate the opportunity and the confidence that the mayor and council have shown in naming me the first deputy city manager in the history of Statesboro,” Cheshire said after the vote. “I’m excited about it.”
Based on council members’ input, Human Resources Director Jeff Grant had drafted revisions to the job description. One change was adding the information technology department to a list of departments under the deputy manager’s day-to-day oversight. These also included engineering, water and sewer, natural gas, and planning and development.
But another passage said that the deputy manager’s departmental responsibilities would be decided “based upon the organizational needs and/or the skills, knowledge and abilities of the incumbent or desired candidate.” Councilman Travis Chance suggested that this alone would cover it.
Chance’s concern was still the same as the previous month, he said, that the departmental assignments limited the job to someone with Cheshire’s particular experience.
“If Robert gets hit by a bus – God forbid, we don’t want that to happen – that means either we have to go find somebody or this has to be changed,” Chance said.
Moore asked if there were any way to write the description so that the deputy manager would be “over all departments unless that is changed by the new city manager that comes in.” At that point, she said, there could be further discussion.
So Grant removed the list of departments.
Chance then made the motion to create the new position, and Councilman Will Britt seconded it.
19 years with city
Previously head of the city’s engineering department, Cheshire received no raise as interim city manager, but has continued at his city engineer salary, roughly $104,000 a year.
Moore said Wednesday that she expects Cheshire to sign a deputy manager contract this week or next.
“He will receive an increase in pay over his current salary, but we’re in the process of developing that,” Moore said.
Cheshire has worked for the city of Statesboro a total of 19 years. He started as assistant city engineer in 1992, then served as city manager from 1993 to 2004. After leaving for five years, he returned as city engineer in 2009. He has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Georgia and is a registered professional engineer in Georgia and the Carolinas.
He has been interim manager since July 1, 2014. The council fired former City Manager Frank Parker by a 3-2 vote on June 24, 2014, over a remark he made at a staff meeting about having held private meetings with a majority of the council. He has a wrongful firing lawsuit pending against the city.
“This last 13 months has been a challenge but I’ve learned a great deal, and I’m ready for it,” Cheshire said Tuesday.
But he will also be interim city manager until a new manager is hired.
Robert Slavin, president of Slavin Management Consultants, attended Tuesday’s meeting and has been talking to council members for input on the city manager search.
In July the council agreed to pay Slavin’s firm, which is based in Norcross but has worked in many states, up to $22,591 for the search, including $14,575 in fees plus potential expenses capped at $8,016. The city is also expected to pay travel costs for finalists brought in for interviews.
The firm projected that the search will take 60 to 90 days.
City pay study
A study of pay and promotion steps available to almost all city employees is also moving forward. The council Tuesday unanimously approved contracting with Evergreen Solutions LLC to do the study for $35,000. On a scoring system the city used, Evergreen Solutions, based in Tallahassee, Florida, rated highest of the five firms that submitted proposals, reported City Purchasing Director Darren Prather. It also requested the lowest fee.
The University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which did some past studies, was also among the nine agencies sent the request for proposals. But the institute did not respond, Prather reported.
During a budget discussion in the spring, Cheshire announced that he and the department heads were requesting the study instead of a pay raise for employees this year. Staff members have said they hope it will lead to changes to relieve pay compression, which discourages long-serving employees from accepting promotions, as well as future raises for some lower-paid workers.
The study is expected to take four to five months, Grant said.
“Our goal is at midyear to come to y’all with a recommendation,” Cheshire told the council. The fiscal year runs July through June.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.