Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire is leaving Statesboro’s city government today, after a total of 22 years of service during two intervals, to return to the private sector as an engineer.
Friday is his last day at City Hall after he gave notice to City Manager Randy Wetmore a month ago. Cheshire has served as deputy manager, a title created for him by City Council, for the past two years. He was the interim city manager for two years before that, from when the then-council by a 3-2 vote dismissed Frank Parker as city manager in June 2014 until Wetmore was hired and started work Sept. 1, 2016.
Speaking some words of appreciation for Cheshire at the beginning of Tuesday morning’s council meeting, Wetmore said he had not put this on the agenda because Cheshire wouldn’t have wanted the attention.
“We have a man here who is a very quiet man,” Wetmore said. “He’s done 22 years working for the city of Statesboro. He worked on large projects, small projects, budgets, tight budgets. ... He can answer any question or he’ll find the answer to that question.
“He went out in the storms to check the streets, to check the storm water, but mostly he went out to check the crews, and make sure that everything was OK. …,” the city manager continued. “Robert is a great leader. He’s a guy who does his very best to do the right thing every time. Robert is ethical in his interactions with everyone.”
Wetmore said that this last part was what he enjoyed most about working with Cheshire, who he said had worked every day to make Statesboro a better place, “and for that we should all thank him.”
After the council and others applauded, Mayor Jonathan McCollar also spoke publicly to Cheshire.
“Statesboro, the city, is losing a definite jewel but we definitely want to let you know that we appreciate you, we love you, we respect you, and even though if you don’t want to turn in your letter of resignation that’s fine, we can rip that up, but we wish you the best of luck in everything you do,” McCollar said. “May God bless you and your family.”
Cheshire started work for the city, the first time, as its city engineer in the early 1990s. After 12½ years, he left in 2004, working first as a senior engineer for the city of Greenville, North Carolina, and then returning to Statesboro to work for the engineering firm Maxwell-Reddick & Associates. He returned to work for the city as city engineer in 2009 and was named interim city manager in 2014 while still in the engineer role.
City Council created the deputy city manager role in advance for Cheshire in 2015 while he was serving as interim manager, after making clear that the council was searching outside the city staff for a new permanent manager.
Now, he is going back to work with Maxwell-Reddick and Associates.
“Thank you, mayor, it’s likewise,” Cheshire said Tuesday. “I just want to say one thing. I was privileged to work for the city, and I told them on Friday when they had a little gathering, that by that I meant I’m privileged to work with the men and the women and the citizens in this community … and that comes from the heart.”
Maxwell-Reddick made him “just a really good offer,” Cheshire said when asked after the meeting why he is leaving city employment.
“I worked there before I came back to the city for my second stint, so I’m going back to the same firm again,” Cheshire said. “I’m almost 56, so it’s just going to give me that chance to go out there and spread my wings a little bit and do something different, for a change.”
Whether the city will hire a new deputy manager, or whether the post is eliminated through changes in the organizational chart, remains to be seen.
“It will just be me for a while, and I’m working on some reorganization possibilities to take a look at as we move forward in the coming months,” Wetmore said Thursday.
City engineer search
Wetmore had a requested, and City Council unanimously approved July 17, contracting the consulting firm Development Associates to conduct searches for people to fill two long-term vacancies, those of human resources director and city engineer. Development Associates conducted the search that led to the hiring of Chief of Police Mike Broadhead.
Former city engineer Brad Deal left the city government to join the Bulloch County government as county engineer in December 2017. Then city human resources director Jeffery Grant left Statesboro in March to be human resources director for the city of Savannah.
But the search for a new Statesboro human resources director will not be needed, since Senior Human Resources Coordinator Flavia Starling, who was already serving as the interim H.R. director, has now agreed to accept the permanent job starting next week, Wetmore said Thursday.
Her promotion should save the city the potential $18,000 cost for one search. But Wetmore wants Development Associates still to do the city engineer search, which also carries a projected cost of around $18,000. Although other staff members are sharing the workload, the departure of both Deal and Cheshire leaves the city without an engineer with P.E., or Professional Engineer, certification, Wetmore said.
Also Tuesday, City Council unanimously approved a request for proposals for a new pay plan study that will compare the city government’s salaries and wages to other public and some private-sector employers. Unlike the overall classification and compensation study completed three years ago, this one will not consider changes in job classifications, only pay to make sure the city remains competitive, Wetmore said.
“From department heads down to people who have (commercial drivers’ licenses), all of our positions, we seem to be having quite a bit of turnover,” he said. “I think it was last week or the week before we had 10 different openings on our board, and for us to be able to continue to provide quality services, we want to be able to attract people and keep people.”