One of two former military men experienced in local government human resources in Florida is likely to become Augusta’s new human resources director.
The troubled city department has dwindled to about half its original size since August 2011, when former director Rod Powell abruptly resigned and commissioners began seriously considering outsourcing its functions, a decision they rejected in June.
Richard C. Anderson, a finalist who interviewed in Augusta on Monday, is a retired Army master sergeant who most recently worked as HR and administrative services director for Emerald Coast Utilities Authority in Pensacola, Fla., from July 2006 to January 2012. He now works as a consultant and Florida Supreme Court county mediator.
Anderson spoke frankly about Augusta government – “Your pay structure is antiquated,” he said – and about imposing tough anti-smoking and nepotism policies in previous positions during a Monday interview with Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Bill Lockett and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles.
“If you’re in HR, you don’t have anybody in the company that’s a relative,” Anderson said he once told an employee. His resume said he left Emerald Coast for “new challenges and job enlargement.”
The other finalist, George A. Williams, noted on his resume his last position as HR director with Tampa, Fla., International Airport “was not a good fit,” but he held an HR director job before in Tampa with Hillsborough County government for eight years.
Asked Wednesday by Brigham how he might last longer than most Augusta HR directors, Williams said he’d been warned of similar turnover in Hillsborough County before accepting that position. Augusta has had several HR directors since consolidation in 1996.
“I was there almost eight years and I left on my own,” he said. “It comes by way of me understanding the importance of quality human relations.”
Williams’ description of handling a sexual harassment complaint involving an Air Force colonel – he was pressured to change it but wouldn’t, and both he and the victim were punished with difficult assignments – struck a chord with Lockett, who retired from the Army.
“I have a strong core value, commissioner, regarding the treatment of people,” said Williams, who was in the Air Force.
“Based on that, I sure as heck have no more questions for you,” Lockett said.
Anderson and Williams were selected by senior city staff from a pool of 111 applicants. City Administrator Fred Russell said he’d likely recommend one of the men for the post and would like to have a director in place by year’s end.
Hiring a director is part of the department’s “extreme makeover” plan developed in part by Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen and consultant Malik Watkins, but more work lies ahead. Allen said Monday there were at least three management slots in the reconfigured department that need to be permanently filled.
Both Anderson and Williams are certified HR professionals, according to their resumes. Both requested a salary of $80,000, which is about $20,000 less than Powell was making.