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Wetmore seeks 2 assistant city managers
To replace former deputy manager, oversee T-SPLOST and TADs
Randy Wetmore
Randy Wetmore

Instead of hiring one deputy city manager to fill the vacancy, Statesboro City Manager Randy Wetmore is looking for two assistant city managers.

City Council approved Wetmore’s redrawing of his office organizational chart Tuesday by a 3-1 vote. But District 2 Councilman Sam Lee Jones objected that the cost would be excessive. Mayor Jonathan McCollar expressed similar concern and suggested the money could be better spent on hiring more lower-rank city employees.

The previous position has been vacant since Aug. 10, when Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire left the city government to return to private employment as an engineer with Maxwell-Reddick & Associates.

“Since that time we’ve taken a look at how we can make the office work without having him here, and it appears to me the best way is to go to two assistants rather than going with just the single deputy,” Wetmore said.

City Council created the deputy manager title in advance for Cheshire in 2015, in the middle of his 26-month run as interim city manager, and he became the deputy when Wetmore took over as manager Sept. 1, 2016.

 

TADs & T-SPLOST


In Wetmore’s plan, one assistant manager will have responsibility over planning, central services, inspections, government buildings and one of the city’s tax allocation districts, or TADs.

The other assistant city manager will oversee public works, utilities, the new Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST, program and another TAD.

Both assistant managers will report to Wetmore, and in addition, the fire chief, police chief, human resources director and finance director will continue to report directly to the city manager.

“I don’t know what the budget impact will be because it will depend on who applies, whether internal or external and who we end up with,” Wetmore at first told the council, “but with all the activity that we have, I think having two will fare us well because we have a lot of projects in the TADs and the T-SPLOST and those kind of things.”

 

$50K to $200K

District 3 Councilman Jeff Yawn told Wetmore he appreciated his reasons but would like to know the budgetary impact, even if it wasn’t fully obtainable yet.

If both are new hires from outside the city government, this could cost around $200,000, Wetmore said.  District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum suggested that Cheshire’s former salary should be subtracted from this. Wetmore agreed, and Boyum said this could leave an annual cost of about $80,000 or $90,000. Cheshire’s final salary was around $115,000 or more, as indicated by the midpoint for grade in the city’s pay plan.

But if both assistant managers are made by promotions from within the city staff, the addition to current salaries and benefits could be $50,000 to $60,000, producing “almost saving,” Wetmore said.

After asking exactly how long Cheshire, who had previously been city engineer, served as interim city manager, Jones stated his objection.

“For 26 months we had an engineer acting as city manager, and he did a good job,” Jones said. “So my concern is having the city manager and then two assistant city managers. It’s a little too much. Not only that, you talked about it having an impact. If an inside person moves up, which I think would be an excellent idea … that person’s job still has to be replaced, so there’s still a $200,000 impact.”

Wetmore replied, “That depends on what we do with that, and if you were to ask Robert about his 26 months, he would say he wishes he would have had one or two other people to help him, I can guarantee you that, without a doubt.”

Then Jones said the city has a number of department heads with 10 years or more experience on the job who can handle their departments. Referring to a previous discussion, Jones said he liked the idea of bringing someone aboard to focus on the T-SPLOST and the TAD programs but would want this to be a temporary position, perhaps lasting four or five years.

 

Reduced workforce

However, Boyum called Wetmore’s request “a great idea” and eventually made the motion to approve.  In his remarks, Boyum mentioned former Human Resources Director Jeffery Grant, who left in March to take the same-titled position in Savannah’s city government. Wetmore filled the vacancy in August by promoting Flavia Starling, previously senior human resources coordinator, to H.R. director.

“Sam, you’re absolutely right, we do have great department heads, who are overworked,” Boyum said. “You know, we’ve been needing some additional help at that level for quite some time, and then with Robert leaving and with Jeff leaving, the department heads, including the people who have taken over for the department heads, they’re overworked, they could use some help.”

The city’s workforce is currently down 30 to 32 employees from the number authorized, or at about 85 percent employment, Boyum said.

Over the past few years, several department-head or equivalent positions have been consolidated, resulting in at least three fewer positions at that level.

 

Mayor’s view

But the mayor suggested that the city could use more workers at the street level. His example was those who mow the public greenspaces and rights of way.

“My concern is that we’re going to have, when you add in benefits, we could have $400,000-plus tied into three positions,” McCollar said. “Meanwhile we’ve got eight people cutting grass for the city of Statesboro, and we’ve got neighborhoods where we’ve got the grass as tall as the stop sign. To me this looks a little too top-heavy.”

Yawn suggested tabling the decision for later, but said it was probably too late. McCollar said that if there were no second, then Yawn could make a new motion. But then Yawn seconded Boyum’s motion, and the vote was 3-1 with Boyum, Yawn and District 5 Councilman Derek Duke voting “aye,” Jones “nay,” and District 4 Councilman John Riggs absent.

Wetmore said the city will get the job ads out this week, and he hopes to make hiring decisions within six weeks.

 

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

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