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Mayor to review administrator finalists Friday

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 9:04 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 29, 2014 1:05 AM
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Mayor Deke Copenhaver will take an active role in selecting Augusta’s new administrator, with input from mayor-elect Hardie Davis in a process nearing its end, the mayor confirmed Wednesday.

In a Wednesday e-mail to Augusta commissioners, Human Resources Director Tanika Bryant said she recently learned the Augusta code assigns to the mayor, not the mayor and commission, the task of presenting as many as three finalists for the administrator job, along with his pick, to the commission for approval.

According to an adjusted schedule of the search process included in the e-mail, the code section attached, that means Copenhaver will meet with John Maxwell, senior vice president for the executive search firm The Mercer Group, on Friday to discuss 10 finalists culled from Mercer’s database of viable candidates.

Copenhaver said the next administrator “should be a strong leader who works very well with our next mayor” and that he’ll seek input on the choice from Davis because “a strong working relationship between the city administrator and the mayor is an absolute must as the city moves forward at this critical juncture.”

In an interview last week Davis, a state senator who takes office in January, said he hoped the governing body would wait until he took office to make the choice.

The consolidated government has been without a permanent administrator since the commission fired longtime administrator Fred Russell in December. Since then, the commission appointed deputy administrator Tameka Allen as interim administrator, with Copenhaver as a backup when Allen was absent, and Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell as interim deputy administrator.

Maxwell said the firm compares “a large database” of job-seekers with the city’s criteria for the position, but wouldn’t describe the level of response the opening had garnered.

“I don’t feel comfortable divulging that here,” he said. “We’re pleased with the response that we received.”

The firm, which handled the 2011 Sarasota County, Fla., search for a manager that included Russell as a finalist, values confidentiality.

“It’s very important to us, because we promised confidentiality to the extent under Georgia law,” Maxwell said.

Georgia open records laws, revised in 2012, require the government at a minimum to release names and associated documents for as many as three finalists for executive positions prior to a final vote.

Mercer’s brochure for the vacancy, available on its Web site, includes images of the Augusta Canal, Augusta National Golf Club and other local landmarks. It requests a candidate with a master’s degree in business or public administration or a related field, along with extensive experience in local government administration.

After Copenhaver presents his recommendation, interviews will be scheduled with the top candidates around the week of June 15, with a goal of having an administrator in place by Aug. 1, according to Bryant.

Commissioner Donnie Smith said he didn’t think Copenhaver’s involvement would change the outcome.

“I’m sure we’ll talk about it at the retreat in June,” Smith said of the search process.

Commissioner Joe Jackson said he “would like to be a part of that process of picking one this year” before his term ends.

Commissioner Bill Lockett said he hoped to have a new administrator in place this year.

“We don’t need to have a brand new administrator and brand new mayor come in at the same time,” Lockett said.

Lockett said partisan divide on the commission – between Democrats and Republicans – sometimes gives rise to public arguments that might discourage an applicant.

“We’re looking, at least from my perspective, at the whole person,” he said. “We don’t need a politician as much as an administrator.”

Lockett said the government had been running better under Allen and Cassell than it did under Russell and he wouldn’t object to hiring them permanently if the search produced no suitable candidate.

“You always need to have alternatives, you need to have a backup plan,” he said.

The Mercer Group will repeat the $15,000 search for only the cost of expenses if it produces no successful hire, Maxwell said at a February meeting.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, who also leaves office this year, said Wednesday he expected the commission to narrow the slate of finalists, but hoped to have a permanent, new administrator in place by September.

“Let’s be real; they’re going to have to go through a learning curve,” Johnson said. “We can’t wait.”

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Riverman1 05/29/14 - 06:45 am
Democrats and Republicans?

Lockett said “partisan divide on the commission – between Democrats and Republicans – sometimes gives rise to public arguments that might discourage an applicant.”

Talk about using euphemisms, Bill Lockett describes the divide on the commission as being between Democrats and Republicans. Since the commission seats are nonpartisan, it’s not accurate, but we know what he means. Heh. If we’re going to begin using those descriptions, I’ll predict in November there will be 6 Democratic commissioners to go along with the Democratic mayor, sheriff and tax commissioner.

Maybe we can use Democrat and Republican descriptions in other local news stories, too, so we can avoid the obvious. “Witnesses said a young Democrat male entered the store and ordered the clerk to hand over the money.”

Pops 05/29/14 - 07:39 am
Wow....they're going to cause Deke to suffer burn out.

"the mayor, not the mayor and commission, the task of presenting as many as three finalists for the administrator job, along with his pick, to the commission for approval."

Seems like more and more responsibility is being dumped on the mayor position. I'll bet there is not enough hours in the day to finish all the stuff he needs to do.......yawn......

itsanotherday1 05/29/14 - 09:21 am
Yup dichot

That is what I inferred from the comment about the government running smoothly with Tameka Allen.

TrulyWorried 05/29/14 - 09:40 am
Choosing new Administrator

Why not let the mayor-elect sit in on this meeting and let him have some input - after all he will have to deal with the new administrator and all the mess he inherits

geecheeriverman 05/29/14 - 11:34 am
save some money

Money could be saved if they would just go ahead and give the job, permanently to Tamika Allen. I am sure she has the votes with the "democrats" on the commission.

nocnoc 05/29/14 - 04:50 pm

Until the NEW Mayor takes offices.

The Boy King should butt out unless the NEW MAYOR totally agrees.

The outgoing Mayor should NOT be making decisions like this that will deeply impact the Government and more.

Brad Owens
Brad Owens 05/30/14 - 08:48 am
Good article...

I am glad they are using an outside private firm to handle this search, otherwise politics might be injected into the process.


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