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Russell states his frustrations with Augusta government during Sarasota interview

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City Administrator Fred Russell portrayed himself as an intelligent leader frustrated with stagnation in Augusta who is in search of new challenges in Sarasota County, Fla., in an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Russell, one of four finalists interviewing for the position of Sarasota County administrator, told the Herald-Tribune “the learning curve here (Augusta) is a little flat.

“It seems to be at the moment we’re doing some of the same issues we’ve been doing 10 years ago,” Russell said.

Hired as deputy administrator in 2002, Russell was named city administrator in 2005 on the resignation of his former Richmond, Va., colleague George Kolb. As administrator, Kolb pushed for greater managerial authority, and he complained of Augusta Commission “micromanagement” when he left to become manager in Wichita, Kan.

Russell’s biggest critics on the commission this year have been the four of 10 commissioners opposing most measures to increase the administrator’s authority to hire, fire, reorganize and outsource personnel.

Outrage at Russell grew after he used his newfound authority in July to award 44 hefty raises to selected employees whose duties were said to increase within reorganized departments. That led to Aug. 16 and Sept. 6 commission motions to fire Russell, both of which failed.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who has not supported a vote to fire Russell and is listed as one of his references in Sarasota County, agreed that Augusta tends to revisit the same concerns – Regency Mall, Hyde Park, certain drainage issues – over and over, without finding easy resolutions.

Russell’s comments to the Sarasota newspaper indicate “he’s thinking some of us are slow on the uptake,” Brigham said.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said some “are trying to look in the past,” more than forward, “and I can understand that frustration.”

“We’re trying to streamline and make our government efficient and effective, and a lot of people are trying to make it a different result,” Bowles said.

“I think sometimes we beat a dead horse,” said Commissioner Matt Aitken, who voted Aug. 16 to fire Russell. Aitken named the yet-unresolved issue of downtown parking in his District 1 as an example.

Though some commissioners have previously cited the lack of a backup plan for why they voted against firing the administrator, there still is no plan in place, nor has anyone voiced support for an effort to retain him. The city has two deputy administrators, one of whom would be next in line on an interim basis should Russell accept another job.

“I think there are those that think he’s irreplaceable,” Bowles said. “I think in almost every position, unless you’re an inventor like Steve Jobs, everybody’s replaceable. We will find somebody to fill his place.”

If selected by Sarasota County, Russell likely would negotiate a higher salary than the $136,359 he makes in Augusta, which is on the low end for cities or counties this size.

The Sarasota County candidates, who also hail from York County, S.C.; Alachua County, Fla.; and North Palm Beach, Fla., were invited as a group to attend public meet-and-greets Sunday and Monday. The five-member Sarasota County Commission will interview the candidates in open session after lunch today.

None of the four candidates had withdrawn from consideration as of Monday afternoon.

What's next?

 The five-member Sarasota County Commission will interview the four candidates, including Fred Russell, in open session today. The commission could make a decision today or continue deliberations at a 2 p.m. Thursday session tentatively scheduled for that purpose, according to Sarasota County Communications Director Crystal Pruitt.

Comments (60)

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Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 11/14/11 - 04:16 pm
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Based upon the remarks

Based upon the remarks attributed to him, Fred must have liked Sarasota.

floridasun
279
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floridasun 11/14/11 - 04:17 pm
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Well good luck Fred I

Well good luck Fred
I certainly understand why you would want to move to Sarasota.
Having to work with the micro managing Augusta Commissioners who are more concerned with saving the job of an inept employee than streamlining city government must be frustrating.
And to all that think Fred is the problem he is not, he has to work with probably one of the most dysfunctional city councils/commissions in the country
And what professional city administrator would want to come to Augusta with the commissions total disfunction. Augusta has had some good administrators in Randy Oliver, George Kolb and Fred Russell, but I can't say too much good about the commission since consolidation

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 11/14/11 - 04:18 pm
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The Truth will set Fred free.

The Truth will set Fred free.

Riverman1
70602
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 04:21 pm
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If anyone wants to blame the

If anyone wants to blame the mess of Augusta government on Russell, they are not being realistic. Having a scapegoat makes some feel comfortable.

Little Lamb
40139
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Little Lamb 11/14/11 - 04:24 pm
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Russell would fit in well

Russell would fit in well with the Obama administration. Blame everyone else and accept no responsibility.

my.voice
4194
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my.voice 11/14/11 - 04:26 pm
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Sarasota employees should

Sarasota employees should jump on this, 15% raises for EVERYONE!

Riverman1
70602
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 04:28 pm
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After reading about the

After reading about the Sarasota government and seeing their demographics, it seems like a dream job compared to Augusta.

Riverman1
70602
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 04:32 pm
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Ask Randy Oliver and George

Ask Randy Oliver and George Kolb about being administrator for Augusta.

curly123053
3202
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curly123053 11/14/11 - 04:36 pm
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Augusta-Richmond County

Augusta-Richmond County government has been broken since consolidation! All you got to see is that a simple commission majority is not enough to enact policies and realize the county government is corrupt! Every other Council and Commission in the CSRA passes laws and policies on simple majorities except Augusta Richmond County!! Why?? Richmond County government is so backwards it's unbelievable, but then it's the citizens there that keep the same sorry commissioners in power! I guess the majority like inept local government! And they wonder why people are moving out of Richmond into Aiken and Columbia Counties!

Riverman1
70602
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 04:38 pm
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If I were a Sarasota official

If I were a Sarasota official and heard about Commissioner Marion Williams stealing Russell's "hard drive" I'd hire him just for the heck of it.

Riverman1
70602
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 04:43 pm
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Curly, realize Richmond

Curly, realize Richmond County is majority black. Also, there are 10,000 residents of Ft Gordon who are mainly white counted in the population racial breakdown of the county. It's perfectly reasonable to expect the government of Richmond County to have mainly black officials. It doesn't. It has a majority white Commission with the Mayor, Sheriff and Administrator all being white. The last permanent Fire Chief was white. That creates lots of conflict in Augusta. There's no getting around it.

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 11/14/11 - 04:45 pm
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I think between Fred Russell

I think between Fred Russell and the commission, there's plenty of blame to go around.

bjphysics
36
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bjphysics 11/14/11 - 04:45 pm
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Sarasota is a great place.

Sarasota is a great place.

LemonJello
19
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LemonJello 11/14/11 - 05:03 pm
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I see no reason to disagree

I see no reason to disagree with Mr. Russell. He may not be perfect, but he has a great point about Augusta. "Stagnant" is a great word. While every city around us advances, we stay essentially the same...flatlined.

harley_52
19544
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harley_52 11/14/11 - 05:04 pm
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Who does Fred work for here

Who does Fred work for here in Augusta?

countyman
16814
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countyman 11/14/11 - 05:14 pm
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Hardly anybody is moving from

Hardly anybody is moving from Richmond County to AC or CC. The Costco-115 acre Village at Riverwatch, Buffalo Wild Wings, expanded Tutti Frutti, Sprint Food Metro Market, etc is located in Richmond County.. Along with The future 25 acre shopping center and 10k sq. ft. Shoppes at Dyess Park near the Zaxby's on Jimmie Dyess Pkwy..

Lemon Jello.. Augusta is stagnant?? Village at Riverwatch, Kroc Center, TEE Center, dental school, Buffalo Wild Wings, Electrolux, Rural Sourcing 100 IT jobs, judicial center, Sprint Food Metro Market, 34 condos at the Whites Building, office/parking garage on Ellis Street, 200 acre Haynes Station subudivison along Gordon Hwy between Jimmie Dyess and Grovetown, etc.. Not to mention the projects of the future including the 25 acre shopping center, Carmax area, Residence Inn By Marriott, Four Points By Sheraton, Flowing Wells Business Park, and possibly a $ 115 million chemical plant..

Riverman1
70602
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Riverman1 11/14/11 - 05:08 pm
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Harley said, "Who does Fred

Harley said, "Who does Fred work for here in Augusta?"

Countyman?

Willow Bailey
20252
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Willow Bailey 11/14/11 - 05:11 pm
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Does Augusta's stagnation

Does Augusta's stagnation have anything to do with the City building the TEE parking deck on land belonging to "another"? How "bout them" 15% raises for the spouse and the bud's? And all that who haw with the fire department...where did the buck really stop there? And the City budget thrown together at the last minute? Fred runs things when convenient.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 11/14/11 - 05:18 pm
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Fred Russell works at the

Fred Russell works at the pleasure of the county commission.

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 11/14/11 - 05:21 pm
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Those who really control this

Those who really control this county are perfectly happy with stagnation. Too much growth that "they" don't orchestrate,will result in a loss of control and "they" cannot let that happen. This city will move forward when "they" are ready. In other words as soon as "they" can make a buck off of it, at the expense of "us", the taxpayers.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 11/14/11 - 05:26 pm
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You think Augusta politics

You think Augusta politics are bad. You should have been around in the 30s and 40s when the fire chief, John Kennedy, ran the city. He was head of what was known as the Cracker party and no one breathed unless boss john said so. His party was ousted sometime in the late 40s or early 50s by a bunch of young turks who had had enough. Today's crowd are like priests by comparison.

Willow Bailey
20252
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Willow Bailey 11/14/11 - 05:30 pm
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Countyman the commentor said

Countyman the commentor said "people are moving out of RC" and yes they are, that is the ones who desire to and are able to sell their homes. Many folks are just stuck there:( Lucky you; you haven't invested your money in a piece of RC real estate yet. Sorry to be so disagreeable with you, but you are just to rah, rah, rah with no understanding of the problems.

Willow Bailey
20252
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Willow Bailey 11/14/11 - 05:32 pm
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scoobydo, maybe it's "turk

scoobydo, maybe it's "turk time" again.

tgentry
205
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tgentry 11/14/11 - 05:33 pm
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Once my daughter graduates

Once my daughter graduates from Davidson (3 more years) I know I will be heading across the River. North Augusta seems to have the right mind and motivation.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 11/14/11 - 05:35 pm
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YEP! I will have to pass

YEP! I will have to pass though. I haven't been a young Turk in 65 years.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 11/14/11 - 05:38 pm
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tgentry. one big advantage in

tgentry. one big advantage in living in Richmond County is the tax break for seniors. Double homestead exemption and zero school taxes are hard to give up. A $3800 tax bill becomes a $1200 tax bill. The $2600 difference will buy a lot of beer.

Little Lamb
40139
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Little Lamb 11/14/11 - 05:45 pm
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You are correct about the

You are correct about the school tax break, Scooby. But there is no good reason to suffer while you are young only to realize the gift when you are old. Better to live somewhere else when you are young, then move to Richmond and buy a house when you turn 65.

tgentry
205
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tgentry 11/14/11 - 05:45 pm
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Hmm... Not worth it in my

Hmm... Not worth it in my opinion. I moved here from Atlanta. I went through the 1980's with Atlanta being just like Richmond County is now. They were going no where fast. I was hoping that Richmond County would get past all the good old boy systems and move forward. Being Augusta is the 2nd largest city in Georgia. It is a crying shame with all that Augusta could be that change (in Richmond County) is something that will not happen in my lifetime.

Willow Bailey
20252
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Willow Bailey 11/14/11 - 05:46 pm
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excellent point Corporal

excellent point Corporal gripweed.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 11/14/11 - 06:01 pm
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As a long time resident of

As a long time resident of Augusta who has lived in several other cities I find the political climate here no better or worse than other cities. One such city is Providence, R.I.The pols there are the worst. I don't let the political climate ruin my days.It gives me something to joke about.I love Augusta. I was born here,went to school here, worked here and raised my family here. It is a beautiful city and has the greatest sporting event in the world. If you move to Columbia or Aiken counties you will find very soon conditions that you are not happy about.

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