Statesboro City Manager Randy Wetmore recently appointed two of the city’s department heads, Public Works and Engineering Director Jason Boyles and Planning and Development Director Frank Neal, as interim assistant city managers.
City Council, by a 3-1 vote in early October, had authorized Wetmore to hire two permanent “assistant” managers instead of one “deputy” city manager to replace former Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire, who resigned in August. Last fall, the proposal to add one next-to-top staff position drew criticism from Councilman Sam Lee Jones, who voted against it, and Mayor Jonathan McCollar, who suggested that hiring more street-level city workers should be the priority.
But the council’s majority vote authorized the hiring.
Then the council, after a Nov. 20 closed session for discussion of personnel matters, voted 5-0 approval of a new short-term contract with Wetmore. It reduced his work week to 32 hours beginning Jan. 1 and granted him two weeks additional paid vacation, but with the contract set to end May 31.
The day after the contract vote, Wetmore confirmed that he will retire at the end of May. He then followed through with the assistant city manager appointments in early December, but by promoting from within on an interim basis.
“Rather than permanent, they’re just in an interim,” Wetmore said Jan. 2. “After I announced my retirement, we thought it would be better to go with the interim. Then that way the new city manager, when they’re selected, can determine the structure of how they would like to go forward with it.”
In effect, Boyles and Neal each received a promotion and a raise to a $100,000 annual salary. But both also continue in their department director duties, as they and Wetmore confirmed. So the city has not, at this point, added any staff members.
Boyles and Neal’s additional duties include “coming up to speed” on the Blue Mile and Old Register Road tax allocation districts to be able to carry the city’s role in these and its own long-term projects into the future, Wetmore said.
Boyles’ 18th year
Boyles began working with the city in 2001 as an assistant city engineer. He was promoted to director of public works and engineering in August 2015.
Of his latest promotion, Boyles said, “It is added responsibility, but I welcome the challenge and I look forward to what it may bring in the future.”
In addition to the planning that Wetmore mentioned, the assistant managers will be involved in the budgeting process for fiscal year 2020, Boyles said. The city fiscal year begins July 1, so the budget will be developed before Wetmore’s retirement.
“So he’s leaving behind some continuity for the future of the city and helping to spread some of the workload which was left behind by the former deputy city manager, which was a lot, a lot of these projects that are going on,” Boyles said.
Cheshire, who was previously city engineer and had served more than two years as interim city manager, returned to work as an engineer with a local firm. The council created the deputy manager position for Cheshire before hiring Wetmore.
Neal’s 2nd tenure
Neal returned to Statesboro City Hall not quite three years ago as planning and development director. But he had worked for Statesboro’s city government as a city planner and simultaneously as director of the Main Street Program and Downtown Development Authority in the mid-1990s.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Neal said of being an assistant city manager. “I’m excited to be here with the city of Statesboro, and I think we’ve got a lot of positive things happening here. Being on the planning side, I get to see a lot of things on a daily basis, but I also get to plan for the future, and we’re living in a dynamic and exciting community.”
In a November interview, Mayor McCollar predicted that two people already employed by the city would serve in the newly created positions in the interim. But he and the council would then look to the next city manager to determine the organizational chart, he said.
The mayor and council are working with Developmental Associates LLC to recruit the next city manager. This is the same firm that conducted the search for a chief of police that concluded with the hiring of Chief Mike Broadhead in spring 2017.
Once hired by the mayor and council, the city manager has hiring authority over the department heads who direct Statesboro’s roughly 300 city employees.
The two assistant managers will help in the transition to a new city manager, Wetmore said. He hopes the search will go fairly quickly, perhaps concluding by May, so he will still be aboard to help with the transition when the new city manager arrives, he said.
“Even if it’s not in May it should be soon thereafter so it can be a smooth transition, and then having these two as the assistants gives them that opportunity to really come up to speed on all the projects, and again, it should make for a smooth transition,” Wetmore said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.