Questionnaires have been sent to more than 20 selected candidates for the job of Statesboro city manager, Mayor Jan Moore reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, she asked the City Council to discuss soon whether to hire another public safety director or simply a police chief.
After firing Frank Parker as city manager in late June 2014, the mayor and council let a year pass with Robert Cheshire, the former city engineer, as interim city manager before taking further action to fill the post. While also creating a new job, deputy city manager, that Cheshire accepted, the council in July hired Slavin Management Consultants, based in Norcross, to do a national search for a city manager.
The deadline for applications was Sept. 25. Updating City Council in open session, Moore noted that 53 people applied.
“Of those 53 applicants, the search firm was able to go through and look at … how many of them met the credentials that we asked for, and I think it’s 20-something,” she said. “They were each sent a very detailed and long questionnaire.”
The questionnaires were sent out last week, and the firm’s president and lead recruiter, Robert Slavin, asked that the selected applicants be allowed two to three weekends to answer, Moore said.
Slavin should be able to update the mayor and council soon, Moore said. She suggested this might occur by the next council meeting, Nov. 3, but added that this was just a guess.
The job announcement published by the firm listed requirements including a master's degree or the equivalent in public administration, public finance, business administration “or other field related to this position” plus three to five years senior-level management experience in local government.
The announcement asserted: “Must have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of all or most of the administrative and operational functions provided by the Statesboro municipal government. Must be outcome-focused with a strong grasp in public finance and budget as well as overall organizational management.”
Slavin also notified applicants that, under the Georgia Open Records Act, the resumes of the final three candidates are subject to public disclosure 14 days prior to an appointment. The law actually states that a government agency hiring its top manager must release “all documents which came into its possession with respect to as many as three” finalists.
Another passage in the law says that an agency cannot avoid this through the use of a search firm.
A police chief again?
Meanwhile, the city also has a vacancy at the head of a department. Public Safety Director Wendell Turner, who was in effect the Statesboro Police Department’s chief but also had administrative duties over the Fire Department, resigned effective Oct. 13 to become the Canton Police Department's new captain in command of support services.
Moore posed the question Tuesday whether Statesboro City Council will hire another public safety director or restore the title of police chief. She did not ask council to begin this discussion immediately, but suggested it be taken up at the next meeting. Four of the five council members were present Tuesday, but Councilman Travis Chance was absent.
“As regards a search and hiring for a new director of public safety and/or police chief, whatever council deems, I would like to put on our next agenda,” Moore said. “I didn’t put it on this one because Councilman Chance is not here, and I think it’s a discussion that everybody’s going to want to participate in, so I’m trying to afford him that opportunity.”
Turner worked for the city 22 years, including 17 within the Statesboro Police Department and the last five years as public safety director.
He was a police captain when the City Council and then-City Manager Shane Haynes decided on a major change in May 2010. Following a council directive to close a $425,000 budget shortfall without raising property taxes, Haynes announced the elimination of six positions in the police and fire departments. Then-Police Chief Stan York and Fire Chief Dennis Merrifield were dismissed.
The city created the public safety director’s position to replace both chiefs, and Turner was offered the post immediately after it was announced. Each department was to have a commander who served under him.
Tim Grams was named commander of the Statesboro Fire Department, but later, the fire chief position was reinstated, and Grams was named to that position, which he still holds. However, former Statesboro Police Department Maj. J.R. Holloway resigned as police commander, taking retirement Oct. 1, 2011, and the title of “police chief” has not been assigned to anyone else.
Maj. Rob Bryan is interim leader of the Police Department since Turner’s departure.
At a farewell reception for Turner on Sept. 25, Moore said she wants to see a committee, made up of citizens and the deputy city manager, begin the search for the SPD’s new leader. City Council would name members to the committee, which would later present a list of three to five candidates to the council, which will make the hiring decision, she said.
But at Tuesday’s council meeting, Moore said that the first decision the council needs to make is whether the person to be hired will be a public safety director or a police chief.
“We can’t hire to a position until we know exactly which position we are going to be hiring, so we’re going to have a discussion about (whether) to remain with the public safety director model or to look at going to a police chief model with or without a public safety director,” Moore said, “and like I said, I’d like to have that discussion at our next City Council meeting.”
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.