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Augusta commissioners begin work of choosing new city administrator

Commission begins work to pick new administrator

Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 4:17 PM
Last updated Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013 7:58 PM
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Augusta commissioners have tough choices ahead on choosing the next city administrator after firing Fred Russell on Monday.

Former city Administrator Fred Russell was fired on Monday by a 7-0 vote.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Former city Administrator Fred Russell was fired on Monday by a 7-0 vote.

They likely will have help from the mayor, who was given the authority years ago to recommend up to three finalists for the top administrative slot, based on a commission-approved recruitment plan.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who could not be reached for comment, “would welcome being involved” in the process, said his executive assistant, Al Dallas. Copenhaver “certainly cares about the city, and the selection of an administrator is a crucial decision for the city.”

After firing Russell by a 7-0 vote, commissioners requested the city human resources department “immediately begin a search for a qualified professional service firm for a certified and qualified administrator,” and city HR Director Tanika Bryant said the department is researching firms.

For Commissioner Alvin Mason, who is running for mayor next year, the ideal candidate must meet the educational requirements of the city administrator’s job description.

“No waivers should be given, as has been past practices of this government,” Mason said.

The job description, last revised in 2010, requires a master’s degree in business administration or public administration and five to eight years of related experience, with skills ranging from complete understanding of all local government functions and laws to the ability to develop and make formal presentations to a large audience.

Mason said he’d like to see a candidate with 10 years’ experience supervising large and diverse municipalities, experience with a budget of $750 million or more and extensive knowledge of municipal financing mechanisms such as Georgia’s Tax Allocation Districts.

The job earned Russell, who has a master’s degree in criminal justice, an annual salary of $136,859 plus insurance, retirement benefits, a car allowance and an almost-guaranteed severance package of at least six months’ pay. It has no specified salary range.

Russell was “a bargain,” remarked Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who was absent from Monday’s vote. “It will probably cost us more than $150,000,” he said, but “if they have the experience, a proven track record, it’s worth it.”

Guilfoyle also suggested a candidate with “new blood” and no existing ties to local government.

Commissioner Marion Williams, who served on the commission that in January 2005 waived the selection process when it promoted Russell to the position, said this time the candidate needs proven experience as an administrator.

“Not somebody looking for an opportunity to get started,” Williams said, “a man or woman with experience on the job that’s been proven.”

Russell was hired in January 2002 as a deputy administrator, later appointed interim administrator, then given the job permanently in January 2005.

With the appropriate level of experience, Williams said the candidate will already have the education and certifications needed to “come in here and lead the city forward” and ensure commission directives are met.

“The wheel has already been invented; all we need to do is hire the administrator.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith said he wanted good communication skills and “strong skills in the everyday handling of government business,” including careful management of an $800 million budget, in an administrator, rather than one who dabbles in economic development, as Russell sometimes did.

“There’s too many times that we don’t know what’s going on in the government until it’s decision time,” Smith said.

Commissioner Mary Davis also wants the next administrator to have “experience in implementing and overseeing complex projects, such as SPLOST packages.”

The city’s sixth sales tax expires next year.

“We have a lot of exciting opportunities ahead in growth and economic development and I am excited about Augusta’s future,” Davis said.

Commissioner Bill Lockett stressed education and professional experience that includes fields such as accounting and long-range planning, and experience in multiple municipalities.

“Someone that’s going to separate themselves from the political environment,” Lockett said. “Someone that would stand up to the governing body when the governing body is trying to sway you to do something that’s wrong.”

He added he preferred not to hire “somebody’s friend” or an administrator who allows personal relationships to impact his or her job performance.

“Somebody with a clear head that will come in, do a survey of what we have and make positive strides,” Lockett said.

Russell is Augusta’s third administrator since consolidation and its first to be fired.

The consolidated government’s first administrator, Randy Oliver, was a Certified Public Accountant as well as a professional engineer. He held the job from October 1996 until leaving for a similar post in smaller Greenville, S.C., at a salary that was $35,000 higher, in October 2000.

The city’s first black administrator, George Kolb, knew Russell while both worked in Richmond, Va. Kolb held the job from April 2001 to May 2004, when he resigned to work as city manager of Wichita, Kan.

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Pops
14327
Points
Pops 12/14/13 - 05:45 pm
6
1
Listening to these clowns spouting

their demands of what they expect of the next "victim" is enough to make one sick to their stomach........

“The wheel has already been invented; all we need to do is hire the administrator.”.....that little nugget of wisdom is from the most intelligent of the commissioners.....

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 12/14/13 - 06:01 pm
6
2
Do anyone think those idiots
Unpublished

Do anyone think those idiots will pick the right person. Kind of reminds me of Washington.

Riverman1
93489
Points
Riverman1 12/14/13 - 06:04 pm
6
2
Wouldn't Surprise Me

I wouldn't be surprised if they don't rehire Fred Russell.

Riverman1
93489
Points
Riverman1 12/14/13 - 06:13 pm
4
2
But My Serious Choice

Matt Kwatinetz

And obviously, I don't sugar coat my concerns of his past suggestions with the Mayor's project and his "embarrassment" misstep (see my comments today). This guy is a sensitive, brilliant and concerned individual who for some reason has an affinity for Augusta. I'd hire him although I doubt he will take the job.

rebellious
21840
Points
rebellious 12/14/13 - 06:28 pm
9
0
Crazy Comments

from our commissioners. Fred Russell spent the entirety of his Augusta career dodging political landmines, while trying to preserve some semblance of a city administration. 10 opinions, all different, and each with 20/20 hindsight and consummate Monday morning quarterbacking skills. He HAD to be a political chameleon to have survived as long as he did. And now, to hear from the primary offenders how they want an experienced, non-political Administrator is laughable. They (Commissioners) don't want a person with new ideas, honest advice, and a vision for Augusta. They have proven, they want "tit for tat", whether that means black for a white (Tom Beck for Theresa Smith), their district over another (Betty Beard's remarkable deal of the century), or the uber important "racial balance" (the Gentleman's Agreement)!
Don't tinkle down my back and tell me it is raining. I will lose the cynicism when performance indicates differently. Until then, I remain skeptical at best, discouraged at worst.

Whatever happened to the whole "One City" concept?

my.voice
5167
Points
my.voice 12/14/13 - 06:45 pm
6
1
Fred Russell is about

Fred Russell is about Augusta's speed. Anyone with real experience is going to keep a safe distance from this big little (minded) town. What we really need is a commission that leads, not those who look at everything thru black/white lenses.

dichotomy
37417
Points
dichotomy 12/14/13 - 07:33 pm
6
0
Unfortunately anyone who

Unfortunately anyone who would come to work here has probably been "let go" somewhere else...or has been an assistant to the assistant. I'll be very surprised if they find a good administrator that wants to come to work for this dysfunctional commission.

Gage Creed
19387
Points
Gage Creed 12/14/13 - 09:37 pm
5
0
I wonder if the lady from the

I wonder if the lady from the daycare down the street would take the job.... She said she would rather endure 10 cranky toddlers... no matter the salary!

bubbasauce
24260
Points
bubbasauce 12/15/13 - 12:17 am
4
0
Yes indeed we need

Yes indeed we need Commissioners that will lead Augusta and make decisions without having to hire a consultant for every single idiotic plan they come up with. Most of them are scared to death to make a decision and put their name on anything! Except fire someone that is.

just an opinion
2920
Points
just an opinion 12/15/13 - 12:43 am
3
0
Lockett - you have been a disappointment!

You are quoted as saying "don't just hire somebody's friend". I would think even you seven commissioners who did this would be smart enough not to just hire "somebody's friend". Lockett: how did you get and keep your past government job?

tanbaby
1306
Points
tanbaby 12/15/13 - 05:58 am
0
0
OMG!!! they are all
Unpublished

OMG!!! they are all "somebody's friend"... that's why the government is the way it is now !!!!

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 12/15/13 - 06:48 am
3
0
The next person is going to have a very thick hide

just to work along with at the least 6 buffoons on the Commission that I count.

diamond in the rough
45
Points
diamond in the rough 12/15/13 - 09:45 am
3
0
It's too bad Augusta has such

It's too bad Augusta has such a small town attitude. There is so much potential in this great city! Everyone has to work together stop the racial division.

soapy_725
44110
Points
soapy_725 12/15/13 - 10:59 am
1
0
Can they find someone who doesn't look like a mob enforcer?
Unpublished

A bagman, knee breaker, buttonman, gumbah,

soapy_725
44110
Points
soapy_725 12/15/13 - 11:00 am
0
0
Someone who is not high on bottled water or worse? Himself?
Unpublished

Someone who is not high on bottled water or worse? Himself?

Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 12/15/13 - 03:02 pm
0
2
"Idiots", "buffoons",

"Idiots", "buffoons", "clowns".....

I think we ought to be equally concerned about the impression an outsider would have of this community when they read these comments.

Are these posts by non-Richmond County people trying to make us look even less favorable?

Gage Creed
19387
Points
Gage Creed 12/15/13 - 07:47 pm
0
0
I guess it's not like the

I guess it's not like the truth matters or anything? Right?

Sweet son
11585
Points
Sweet son 12/16/13 - 12:08 pm
0
0
Whether the title 'idiot,' 'clown' or 'bufoon' is proper

for the Magnificent 7, they have given Fred a huge Christmas present and even did it after he said he was leaving. Their foolishness cost the taxpayers $150,000 per the estimates. How sad but look at who is making the decisions.

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