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No city manager hired; council to cast the net again
After six candidates interviewed out of 53 who applied
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After interviewing six applicants for the city manager’s job by videoconferencing, Statesboro City Council and Mayor Jan Moore are not hiring any of them.

Instead, according to a statement that city Human Resources Director Jeff Grant emailed Wednesday on behalf of the mayor and council, they will be starting the search process over. The position will be advertised again.

“As with the first search that began last September, the goal is to have at least three finalists that possess the experience, skills, knowledge and ability to serve as the manager of a city this size and scope. We were not able to achieve this goal with our initial pool of candidates,” the statement reads in part.

Statesboro’s city officials will continue working with Slavin Management Consultants, based in Norcross, on the manager hunt. City Council contracted with Robert Slavin’s firm last July, and its original job posting and outreach efforts resulted in 53 applications by the Sept. 25, 2015, deadline, city officials said.

The renewed search, like the first round, will be national one, according to the statement, confirmed by Grant in a follow-up call.

But the second paragraph of the statement alludes to local conditions that may have affected the search. It also expresses a need for more applicants willing to manage a city government facing some challenges:

“With local elections settled and the city moving forward, we are hopeful that more candidates will apply who possess experience commensurate with managing a city government that faces the unique challenges Statesboro presents, including a major university, continued growth and expansion, redevelopment of a once vibrant city core, and a tax digest that isn’t growing within the city.”

 

Midstream changes

The 2015 city election was actually cancelled because all candidates were unopposed. But two long-term council members, Will Britt in District 3 and Gary Lewis in District 2, did not seek re-election, and were replaced by new members Jeff Yawn in District 3 and Sam Lee Jones in District 2 in January.

Both Jones and Yawn had been briefed on the city manager applications and included in some discussions, but the council did experience turnover of two of the five members in the middle of the search.

Among the challenges mentioned in the statement, one positive, suggested by “redevelopment of a once vibrant city core” is the Blue Mile plan for revitalization of the South Main Street corridor. With this plan, Statesboro is one of 15 semifinalists in the America’s Best Communities competition, vying for up to $3 million in project funding.

Statesboro’s status as an America’s Best Community contender was already part of last fall’s job notice to potential city managers.

 

Other challenges

But applicants may have heard other ongoing news regarding the city.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment in December charging now-former Councilman Lewis with attempted extortion, two days after his final council meeting. His case is awaiting trial.

But former City Manager Frank Parker’s lawsuit against the city over his June 2014 firing by a 3-2 vote of the council was recently settled by the city’s liability insurer. Last fall, a judge had rejected some of the Parker’s allegations against the city and dismissed the mayor and council members as individual defendants, but his whistleblower and breach of contract claims had been set for an airing before a jury.

In the settlement, announced Feb. 22, two days before the civil trial was scheduled to begin, Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company agreed to pay Parker and his attorneys $120,000, but with the city admitting no error in his dismissal.

So as the city prepares to relaunch the search, that battle is over and the new council members are aboard.

 

Hope for June hire

The statement expresses a hope that the new search will be successful and that a new city manager will be in place in June.

At that point, interim City Manager Robert Cheshire will have served two years in the interim role. Cheshire was previously city engineer, but the council created a new post of deputy city manager last summer and promoted him to it, as the title he would keep after a new manager is hired.

The city will not have to pay Slavin Management Consultants anything above the original contract cost to renew the search, Grant said during the follow-up call. The description of services states that the firm will “continue to work for the City until a suitable candidate is recruited and hired.”

The council agreed in July to pay Slavin up to $22,591 for the complete search, including $14,575 in fees plus potential expenses capped at $8,016. The city was also expected to pay travel costs for any finalists brought in for interviews.

Although the renewed search will also be nationwide, it will be retargeted in certain ways, Grant said.

“There’s going to be more of an effort on recruiting university community-experienced applicants, locally, regionally, nationally,” he said.

Asked if the mayor and council would look back at any of the 53 original applicants beyond the six interviewed, Grant said the candidates could reapply.

Moore had said that a statement about the search would be issued, and that she personally wouldn’t have anything to add.

The next-to-last paragraph of Wednesday’s statement portrays the extended search as an effort not to rush the decision:

“As a mayor and council, we understand that this is a critical position for the city going forward, and that this decision should not be taken lightly and should not be rushed. Initiating a new recruitment search will allow us to explore additional candidates in order to find the best fit for the organization and the community. It’s important that we take our time to ensure our selected candidate is the right one.”

The city’s statement will be posted with this story at www.statesboroherald.com.

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

 

Mayor and Council statement
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