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Augusta Commission searches for consensus on candidates for city administrator

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Wednesday will mark two weeks since Mayor Deke Co­pen­haver revealed the names of three finalists for city administrator, but it remains to be seen how soon Augusta will hire a permanent head of the government.

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Stephen Layson is a former Putnam County, Ga., commissioner and private developer who is now assistant county manager for infrastructure in the newly consolidated Macon-Bibb County government.
Stephen Layson is a former Putnam County, Ga., commissioner and private developer who is now assistant county manager for infrastructure in the newly consolidated Macon-Bibb County government.

The finalists are Janice Al­len Jackson, an Augusta native, longtime manager of Albany, Ga., and former county manager in Mecklenburg County, N.C.; Harvard-educated Oscar Rod­ri­guez, a former town manager of Taos, N.M., who has held many local government titles over a 30-year career; and Steve Layson, a former Putnam County, Ga., commissioner and private developer who is now assistant county manager for infrastructure in the newly consolidated Macon-Bibb County government.

Copenhaver was trying Friday to build consensus among the 10 commissioners for his pick, Rodri­guez, but “hasn’t spoken with all of them at this point,” said Al Dallas, the mayor’s executive assistant.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey John­son said he was most impressed with Jackson. He said Jackson fit his expectations for having served in a deputy role in a much larger government. Mecklenburg County, home of Charlotte, has 870,000 people.

“She just had some very good ideas, not just ideas but her theories on how to handle things were very good,” Johnson said. “She just seemed to understand the challenges; she was able to give us a good answer to the questions that we posed to her.”

From 2005 to 2009, Jackson was one of four general managers in the Meck­len­burg County manager’s office, overseeing health and safety functions. She also served as interim director of the county social services office for seven months in 2008.

Before that, she served more than nine years as city manager in Albany, population 76,900, after three years as assistant city manager there.

“In the local government profession, people are people and budgets are budgets, and if you have managed an organization, those skills are transferable,” Jackson said.

News reports from Albany give no indication of why, besides a change in administration, the Albany Commission declined to renew her contract in 2004.

Since resigning from the Mecklenburg County position in 2009, Jackson has worked as a consultant for Janice Allen Jackson and Asso­ciates, whose primary client is Cautmica LLC, a commercial painting firm owned by her husband, Joe L. Jackson.

Jackson’s résumé states that during the four years she’s consulted for Cautmica, the firm has experienced a “15-fold increase in revenue.” The firm’s Web site lists institutional work on projects at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and Char­­­lotte Douglas Interna­tional Airport, and in Albany for the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Darton College and the Flint RiverQuarium, entities not run by city government.

Commissioner Bill Lock­ett said he expects to vote on a candidate this week, although commission clerk Lena Bonner said Friday that she’d not yet been asked to issue a called meeting request.

“It looks as if we’re going to have a special called meeting on Wednesday to make an announcement about who has been selected,” Lockett said. “The mayor is going to recommend one of the candidates we have interviewed.”

Wednesday will satisfy the amount of time Georgia law requires the public be informed of finalist names since the commission learned who Copenhaver had selected for them to interview.

Lockett said he’d been impressed by the three but wished he could have reviewed “the résumés of more people.”

“I think anything is better than what we had,” he said, comparing the finalists to Rus­sell, whose background was in law enforcement.

Lockett said that while Copen­haver “wants hopefully unanimous approval” for his pick, “I don’t think he’s going to get unanimous consent on any of them.”

Johnson said he doubted the commission will vote on an administrator the day after an election. Johnson is in a heated runoff Tuesday for state Senate against attorney Harold Jones.

Commissioner Marion Wil­liams, who did not attend the interviews of Layson or Rodriguez, said Jackson was “strong” but that he continued to disagree with how the search had been conducted. The commission voted to hire the Mercer Group sight unseen, and Williams said he had hoped to review more of the numerous applicants.

“It’s a trick to fool the general public into having the perception that we’re going to do right,” Williams said.

Rodriguez, who has a master’s degree from the Massa­chusetts Insti­tute of Tech­nology, said despite his short tenure of 20 months in Taos, “I’ve been ready to settle down for quite some time.”

His last two city management gigs were mayoral appointments that he lost when a new mayor was elected.

Rodriguez, for several years an adviser for the Inter­national City/County Manage­ment Association, said he’s “been in this business a long time” and recognized he will come in not knowing everything about how Augusta’s government works.

“I’ve got the skills to move up the learning curve fast,” he said. “That’s how I would approach it.”

Johnson said Rodriguez’ “tenure on his previous jobs is short-lived,” though he would “probably come here and shake things up a little bit.”

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle said he supports hiring Rodriguez.

“I want him to come in and do his job, be efficient to where we are actually running like a machine,” Guilfoyle said. Where there are management weaknesses, Guilfoyle said Rodriguez will “coach them to where they become effective.”

Behind Rodriguez, Guil­foyle said his second choice was Layson, who did not return calls for comment.

Commissioner Grady Smith said Layson “sounds like the type of guy I would like to do business with.”

Layson is “a guy that wants to come here and be a part of this team and make it last for a while,” Smith said.

If Layson didn’t get six votes, however, Smith said he is willing to consider another candidate.

“If my top choice isn’t everybody else’s top choice, let’s see how close we can get on the agreement table and move forward,” he said.

Smith said Layson had experience with sales tax referendums and other issues similar to those Augusta faces.

Commissioner Mary Davis said she wanted the commission and mayor to discuss “as a group who we each feel would be the best choice and go from there. I don’t want us to vote until we have a strong consensus.”

Should Augusta not hire an administrator before the end of the year, that’s OK with Mayor-elect Hardie Davis, who said he’s had no involvement in the search.

“To date, I still have not seen anything,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to any of the candidates, I haven’t talked to any of the commissioners about the candidates” and “I have not talked to the mayor about any of the candidates.”

Davis said he continues to believe that interim Admin­is­trator Tameka Allen and inte­rim Deputy Administrator Steve Cassell can keep city government rolling until the best candidate was found, but that he’ll work with “the government that’s given to us on Jan. 1, 2014.”

Comments (20) Add comment
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corgimom
38162
Points
corgimom 07/19/14 - 04:12 pm
3
0
WHY did Taos, NM fire

WHY did Taos, NM fire Rodriguez after less than 2 years on the job?

Susan McCord
132
Points
Susan McCord 07/19/14 - 04:47 pm
4
0
Rodriguez

Corgi, according to Rodriguez he lost that job when a new mayor was elected. News reports appear to corroborate this.

Pops
14051
Points
Pops 07/19/14 - 05:12 pm
3
0
“It’s a trick to fool the general public into having the

perception that we’re going to do right,” Williams said."

You got that right, Mr. Williams. I'm sure you will be able to convince your constituents that you are always doing right.

Pops
14051
Points
Pops 07/19/14 - 05:20 pm
5
1
This whole form of Augusta government

is nothing more that a big, convoluted mess........

dichotomy
37320
Points
dichotomy 07/19/14 - 05:56 pm
3
0
I can't find out too much

I can't find out too much about any of them. It looks like Layson has been trying to leave his current job by applying to other cities for several years. Makes you wonder if he is a salary chaser and how long would he stay if they hired him.

I could not tell what kind of politics Rodriguez got caught up in out in Taos. Looks like there were some hard feelings between the city and the local county and they threw the mayor out and Rodriguez with him.

And apparently the job that Janice Jackson held up in Charlotte was so unnecessary they did not even bother to replace her when she left.

Personally, I'm giving the stink eye to all three of them.

Little Lamb
48822
Points
Little Lamb 07/19/14 - 09:51 pm
5
1
The fix is in

The problem with this process is that Deke Copenhaver did all the screening. The commissioners did not get a chance to look at the credentials of anyone but the three "finalists" who were selected by Deke. There was a better way, but no one took it.

geecheeriverman
4435
Points
geecheeriverman 07/20/14 - 04:05 am
5
0
no need

As soon as the new mayor is installed, there will be no need for an administrator as it is now known. The majority black commission will vote to change the charter to a mayor type government. This will be kicked around for a while but eventually that is going to happen. The blacks are now in control of the AR/C government. I wonder if King Charles is waiting in the wings.

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 07/20/14 - 07:00 am
4
1
I still ask

Why is ARC being limited to the soon to be gone lame duck Boy Kings selections?

raul
5714
Points
raul 07/20/14 - 08:10 am
2
0
@corgimom. You are from

@corgimom. You are from Charlotte. Any insight on Jackson?

Dixieman
17198
Points
Dixieman 07/20/14 - 09:00 am
6
0
Rules for voting by ARC Commissioners

Reading the coverage of this mess and prior attempts to fill senior positions in the ARC government, I was perplexed until I finally figured the system out. Suggest what I learned be formalized in this rule:

Rule 17.2(B)(vi): In selecting persons to fill positions in the ARC government:

1. White commissioners shall vote against any black candidate.
2. Black commissioners shall vote against any white candidate.
3. All commissioners shall gang up to vote against any Asians, Hispanics, etc. to try to preserve jobs for members of their own race and get more votes.

dichotomy
37320
Points
dichotomy 07/20/14 - 09:16 am
3
0
It is just a fact that no

It is just a fact that no self-respecting person would want to work for the Commission. Our commission's reputation is well known and no decent employee that could find a job anywhere else would come here.

Riverman1
93229
Points
Riverman1 07/20/14 - 09:34 am
7
2
Selectee Is Obvious

It's a typical Boy King limp maneuver with a black, Hispanic and white candidate to choose from. It's a little show when the one who will be selected is obvious.

shelby547
272
Points
shelby547 07/20/14 - 12:12 pm
3
1
Business and politics

Janice works for her company as a consultant with her primary client as her husbands company. She will fit in perfect here

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 07/20/14 - 12:49 pm
1
0
Interesting comments on another thread by ….

….another commenter….

"If Oscar Rodriguez is Deke’s top pick; I wonder if he (Deke) has read the following taken from the Taos News. Taos Town Councilor Rudy Abeyta says he has “seriously grave concerns” about manager Oscar Rodríguez’ leadership and its effect on employee morale at town hall.Abeyta’s comments followed a two-hour closed session Tuesday (Jan. 7) at which the council discussed Rodríguez’ performance as well as ongoing litigation with Taos County. Following the private discussion, Taos Mayor Darren Córdova said the council “expressed some concerns with the day-to-day operations of the town manager.”Rodríguez was hired in May 2012 and has been the architect of many of the town’s controversial decisions (can anyone say parking deck), including the decision to annex the Taos airport, negotiations with Taos County over emergency dispatch, and the implementation of an unpopular library fee that has since been withdrawn."

My opinion is that this behavior will fall right in line with how the previous Administrator behaved…

No wonder he's Deke's pick..

corgimom
38162
Points
corgimom 07/20/14 - 04:22 pm
2
1
Everybody is a salary chaser,

Everybody is a salary chaser, if they weren't, we'd all be working at the crap minimum wage jobs we had as teenagers.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

People, for some strange reason, want their municipalities to hire administrators from out of town, and then are SHOCKED when they leave for better places.

They aren't under any obligation to stay for life.

corgimom
38162
Points
corgimom 07/20/14 - 04:27 pm
2
1
As for Janice Jackson, nope,

As for Janice Jackson, nope, there's no dirt on her.

But in Charlotte, between having 3 mayors in one year, getting a football stadium, baseball stadium, Whitewater Center, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame shoved down taxpayers' throats, the banking collapse, the housing collapse, and the streetcar being built along the same route as the bus line, somebody would have to be pretty bad to attract attention.

It'll be a tourist attraction- the bus riders will be able to reach out their bus windows and touch the streetcar.

Little Old Lady
8634
Points
Little Old Lady 07/21/14 - 07:46 am
1
0
Guess

Give you 1 guess as to who will be selected.

hoptoad
20924
Points
hoptoad 07/21/14 - 09:10 am
0
0
Good luck, all you RC

Good luck, all you RC residents and business owners.

puppydog
228
Points
puppydog 07/22/14 - 08:31 am
0
0
Start over...

They need to start over with a new selection of candidates. None of these look ideal or like good leadership material. Or wait until Hardie Davis takes over and let him in on the selection process since he will be working hand and hand with the new city administrator.

puppydog
228
Points
puppydog 07/22/14 - 08:40 am
0
0
Layson

Out of these choices, I would say Layson is the best choice. He doesn't have any negatives against him and he does seem to have some good leadership qualities. He hasn't not had his contract renewed by his employers (Jackson) and he hasn't been fired (Rodriguez). He is still working in government (unlike Jackson). Jackson just promotes her husband's painting business now, not a strong point on a resume for a potential city administrator candidate. Doesn't seem to be a strong leadership quality in her from what I have observed and read. Their references should be checked from by contacting people they have worked with and their supervisors, which I assume has been done.

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