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Augusta has had experience in replacing city administrators

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Taking heat for giving 44 city employees raises as the rest of staff endures freezes and cutbacks, City Administrator Fred Russell narrowly kept his job Aug. 16, with several Augusta Commission members citing the lack of a suitable backup as the only reason they didn’t vote to fire him.

Fred Russell: City administrator narrowly kept his job Aug. 16. Russell became city administrator in January 2005.  Rainier Ehrhardt
Rainier Ehrhardt
Fred Russell: City administrator narrowly kept his job Aug. 16. Russell became city administrator in January 2005.

During Augusta’s short history as a consolidated government, however, the city has twice survived the unplanned departure of an administrator – although the second time, it was Russell who stepped forward during the budget process to ease the transition.

That is why some commission members who want to see Russell canned don’t buy the argument of his being irreplaceable.

“Just like he stepped in, other people could step in too,” Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett said Thursday.

While Russell was on vacation last week, the commission had an opportunity to deal directly with his top assistants, Tameka Allen and Bill Shanahan. Some commission members have said they don’t know enough about the experience of either to be comfortable that they could handle the administrator’s job.

Shanahan “has only been in town for a month or two,” Brigham said, and “has not been in a city this size.” Before he was hired in March, Shanahan, a retired Air Force colonel, had served as the city manager of St. Marys, Ga., since 2004.

Allen, who would become the city’s first black female administrator, doesn’t appear to have much commission support for the job. She has dual roles as department head and deputy adminstrator and Allen was involved in the controversial government reorganization plan. She said she hadn’t considered whether she was up to the challenge, but didn’t know of any reason she couldn’t do it.

“I really haven’t given it any thought, because Mr. Russell is still here,” she said.

Shanahan said he has managed city government and worked with a three-person team to develop the city budget for St. Marys over the past seven years. The southeast Georgia city has a population of just under 20,000 and a total budget of $40 million. Augusta’s population is 200,000 and its total annual budget is close to $700 million.

Russell declined to resign over the salary raises, something he is authorized by the commission to do. He has stated he has confidence in both deputy administrators to carry on when he is away.

If Russell is fired, it wouldn’t be the first time the city has had to change administrators during the budget process.

WHEN RANDY OLIVER was hired to manage the newly consolidated city and county governments in October 1997, he brought in only one man – former deputy Richmond County administrator Walter Hornsby –­ to help him.

When Oliver’s résumé began to surface on short lists to head governments in other communities, city officials began to worry what to do if Oliver quit. In the end, even an offer of more money couldn’t retain him. In October 2000, Oliver took a position in Greenville, S.C., earning $135,000 – $35,000 more than he was making in Augusta.

Oliverleft a parting gift, however – a draft 2001 budget requiring several million dollars in cuts to be balanced.

Hornsby, who balked at commissioners’ doubts about his ability to serve on an interim basis, was tapped as the interim administrator.

In November, the commission hired a search firm to hasten the recruitment process for Oliver’s replacement. Among numerous applicants, the firm came forward with a finalist whom Mayor Bob Young recommended the commission hire – Detroit native George Kolb, who was then serving as deputy city manager and the director of public utilities in Richmond, Va.

Kolb, Augusta’s first black administrator, had previously served as assistant city manager or city manager in three Michigan cities. But recognizing, perhaps, the importance of having a backup, Kolb and some commissioners began pushing for the hiring of another deputy administrator, and Kolb already had one in mind – his former colleague, Deputy Richmond Police Chief Fred Russell.

Kolb, hired in April 2001, had a budget done by the end of the year that included a $79,000 salary for Russell to serve as the deputy administrator over public safety. Russell resigned his Richmond police job that year to run for sheriff of the city of Richmond, but lost and became one of what were then two deputy Augusta administrators in January 2002.

With some on the commission pushing to give Kolb more managerial authority, Kolb butted heads during his tenure with others as he asked for increased purchasing power and authority to hire and fire department heads.

“Our charter says we have an administrator, not a manager,” said former Commissioner Marion Williams. “He wanted to be a manager.”

Unlike Oliver, Kolb interviewed department head candidates himself and presented a recommendation to the commission. He complained of being micromanaged and in May 2004, four months after the retirement of Hornsby and at the start of the budgeting process, Kolb resigned to take a job as city manager of Wichita, Kan.

Russell’s salary was boosted to $105,000 when he took the reins as the interim city administrator, and commissioners heaped on praise when they voted in January 2005 to make his title permanent.

When Russell tapped Allen and Shanahan as deputy administrators, both were already city department heads. Allen, a city employee since 1992 and information technology director since 2004, continues to serve in both roles.

IT WAS AROUND the time Russell recommended Shanahan for the deputy administrator position over public safety earlier this year that commissioners’ disapproval of Russell’s government reorganization plan began to mount, particularly among commissioners who opposed the plan.

Allen, a major architect of the reorganization plan, was among the staffers given retroactive 15 percent raises that infuriated several commissioners including Alvin Mason and Lockett, who called for Russell’s termination. The boost brought Allen’s salary to $131,289, while Russell remains at $136,359, significantly less than his former bosses now earn.

Oliver is now the county administrator in Escambia County, Fla., while Kolb is assistant city manager in Surprise, Ariz.

While Mason and Lockett have for months called for Russell to provide documentation showing how the reorganization plan actually is saving the city money, the report Russell distributed earlier this week met with only tepid approval from the commissioners who didn’t vote to fire him.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham called for Russell to cut more and demonstrate more than the $2 million in savings the report showed, while Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles questioned the savings from positions that already were vacant. Mason has called for additional discussion at Monday’s meeting of the commission’s Administrative Services Committee.

AUGUSTA CITY ADMINISTRATORS

FREDERICK L. RUSSELL

Work: Augusta city administrator since 2005; deputy city administrator, 2002-2004; deputy police chief, Richmond, Va., 1995-2001; executive director, Virginia State Crime Commission, 1990-1995; police chief and emergency services coordinator, Bedford, Va., 1988-1990; Radford (Va.) University director of Safety and Security, 1983-1988

Current salary: $136,359.35

TAMEKA N. ALLEN

Work: Dual role as Augusta Information Technology director and deputy administrator since 2004; Augusta IT director since 2001; joined city government in 1992

Current salary: $131,289.34

WILLIAM P. SHANAHAN JR.

Work: Deputy administrator over public safety since March; city manager, St. Marys, Ga., 2004-2011; manager, Habersham County, Ga., 2002-2004; assistant administrator, Camden County, Ga., 2001-2002; assistant manager, Liberty County, Ga., 1991-2001; U.S. Air Force, 1976-1996

Current salary: $117,499.98

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thewiz0oz
9
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thewiz0oz 08/28/11 - 03:53 am
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Let's see-Russell froze the

Let's see-Russell froze the salaries of the buddies of his fellow Commissioners while he gave raises to those of his staff whom he placed greater responsibility and charged to help him make the August Government more efficient and cost effective. Now the Commissioners whose buddies didn't get the raises want him fired. And many in the community want him fired for during his job. Only in Augusta.

Craig Spinks
818
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Craig Spinks 08/28/11 - 04:15 am
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A plausible scenario,

A plausible scenario, (t)hewiz0oz.

Only in Disgusta?

By the way, TPTB don't want leaders in positions of authority in A-RC or in the RCBOE and RCSS. These puppeteers want folks who'll dance to whatever tune they play on their jukeboxes at The Club. Of course, the puppeteers will invite their "friends" to TC to eat, dance or play golf once a year or so to reinforce the illusion that TPTB see their puppets as the usual type of VIPs when they're really viewed as another type: very impressionable puppets.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/28/11 - 05:55 am
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Wrong, Mr. Wizard. I do not

Wrong, Mr. Wizard. I do not want Russell fired for "doing his job." I want him fired for taking the easy way out by being fiscally irresponsible with other people's money. Governments should not issue pay raises during recessions. The people they're taking the money from are struggling with mortgages as they are laid off or are taking pay cuts.

thewiz0oz
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thewiz0oz 08/28/11 - 06:17 am
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Little Lamb- you have it

Little Lamb- you have it backwards-management in an organization has to make decisions that are best for the organization not what is best for the employees. Of course, good management includes viewing employees as the most valued asset but when it comes down to survival or good business if the organization is not protected all jobs will go away. I personally have not set in Fred Russell's seat and don't have intimate knowledge of all of the logic he used in making his decisions. If he made the right decisions time will tell- if he didn't time will also tell that. Judge him on results not on short- term decisions- it' s possible he may be right and you are wrong- just maybe.

Riverman1
93232
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Riverman1 08/28/11 - 06:51 am
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Turning up the power on the

Turning up the power on the microscope to observe the activity of the microorganisms in the petri dish it's plain the dish is divided with organisms of two hues.

We have the black commissioners wanting Russell fired because he is taking away authority from them and eliminating county jobs. Okay. We have the white commissioners thinking the firing of Russell will allow them to bring in someone to cut jobs and spending more.

Russell has an almost comic book appearance with both hands out to the side in a what can I do gesture. But let's say we fire Russell and then the battle to find another administrator begins. Smoke will be coming out of the petri dish. When the white majority finally approves their Atilla the Hun administrator who is going to rape and pillage the county jobs, the dish will burst into flames and what's left of the fire department will have to use one of the scarce ladder trucks to put it out.

Remember the black guy, Flash, whom the Coliseum Authority appointed to run it before Global? It's rumored the black Commissioners think he would make an excellent administrator.

maandpa
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maandpa 08/28/11 - 07:20 am
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Why would Allen even want

Why would Allen even want Russell's job? She is making almost as much as he is making without her name being in the news every day and people dissing it.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 08/28/11 - 01:14 pm
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thewizOoz wrote: Little Lamb-

thewizOoz wrote:

Little Lamb- you have it backwards-management in an organization has to make decisions that are best for the organization not what is best for the employees.

You misunderstood what I said. I completely agree with you that our city government must not mollycoddle and luxuriate on its employees. When I talked about "the people they're taking money from," I was talking about taxpayers, not city employees. I want cuts in city of Augusta personnel ten times deeper than the cosmetic face-lift snips Russell made.

But, first things first. Repeal Russell's raises!

luismartinez
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luismartinez 08/28/11 - 02:03 pm
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While a corporation is

While a corporation is considered a legal being, in and of itself it would be nothing if it had no employees. However, Little Lamb, you are exactly correct, when it comes to decision making, the welfare of the employees is rarely considered. When one considers an organization such as the city of Augusta, it is talking about an organization that cannot support itself. The support of such an organization comes from somewhere else, such as the citizen taxpayers. As all government organizations do not produce a product or generate income and profits, it must remember it is supported by the enforced collection of taxation on ohters. I personally think it is ashame when you have top government officials brought in from outside the CSRA to reign and rule over the citizens and are paid such exorbitant salaries to do so. I agree with what maandpa said in his posting, if Allen is making close to what Russell makes and doesn't have the same burden placed on their shoulders, then why jump from the frying pan into the fire?

Privy
104
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Privy 08/28/11 - 05:27 pm
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At one time they were talking

At one time they were talking about 5% raises, then it went to 10% and it was going to be retroactive to the date thet the 44 got their raises. Now whats is being said is paying paying them for a few furlough days.
Meeting planned tomorrow (Monday) at the Court House with employees to see what issues they have. Maybe they should have invited the employees that were laid off as well.
Sure would like to see this covered by the media.

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