Augusta might be close to naming city administrator

Mayor, commissioners to meet today on finalists

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 8:08 PM
Last updated Wednesday, July 23, 2014 6:33 AM
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Augusta could be closer to having a permanent head of city government, with Mayor Deke Copenhaver calling a meeting Wednesday to “discuss and approve” his recommendation for the top post.

Commission members will choose one of the three finalists up to fill the position of city administrator. The finalists are Janice Jackson (from left) Oscar Rodriguez and Stephen Layson.
Commission members will choose one of the three finalists up to fill the position of city administrator. The finalists are Janice Jackson (from left) Oscar Rodriguez and Stephen Layson.

Today marks two weeks since Copenhaver revealed to fellow commissioners and the public his choice of three finalists for the top city job, which has been held on an interim basis since January by Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen. Allen did not apply for the job.

The finalists, selected by Copenhaver with help from a search firm, include Janice Allen Jackson, an Augusta native who served for nine years as Albany, Ga., city manager, then four years as a county manager in Mecklenburg County, N.C., home to Charlotte.

Jackson, who described in an interview with Augusta commissioners the crucial public information role she played in Albany during the devastating 1994 flood, graduated from The College of William and Mary, then earned a master’s degree in public policy from Duke University.

She left Albany after some 12 years in city government after a new mayor took office and city commissioners declined to renew her contract.

Jackson said Tuesday that despite leaving Augusta in the early 1980s, she is familiar with its challenges and prepared to take them on.

“With more than 25 years under my belt, with what I’ve been able to see and learn, I’m very comfortable with working there,” she said.

Finalist Steve Layson served as chief administrative officer for Bibb County, Ga., home of Macon, for nine years until the county consolidated with Macon this year. Layson said he wasn’t surprised when the newly elected Macon-Bibb mayor brought on the former Macon administrator to head the consolidated government.

Layson, a former Putnam County commissioner and private developer, said he has a flair for infrastructure and development projects, has experience serving in leadership roles in emergency management, human resources and information technology and enjoys being engaged in his community through civic and arts groups.

“I think I’ve got more direct experience with a community like Augusta,” Layson said. “I really enjoy infrastructure, building projects and things like that.”

The third finalist, said by several commissioners to be Copenhaver’s top pick for the job, also was a victim of local politics in Taos, N.M.

A graduate of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a 25-year veteran of many local government jobs, Oscar Rodriguez said he and his wife planned to raise their baby in Taos, N.M., until a dramatic turn in local politics left him, a town attorney, an assistant city manager, a human resources director and a planning director without jobs.

Until then, Rodriguez said he’d acted strictly at the direction of the mayor and four-member council, who had him orchestrate an annexation of the town-owned airport and generate revenue for the library and parking. The moves turned into political footballs during elections that saw several members replaced.

“It was a council that wanted to take some strong stands, strongly and unanimously,” he said. But then, “there was a backlash.”

As a result, Rodriguez said he’s ready to put down roots elsewhere, and Augusta, where stability in local government is the norm, is appealing “for someone like me who wants to settle down.”

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who supports Rodriguez for the job, said he was confident in the search conducted by the Mercer Group and the vetting that saw 72 applicants narrowed to 10, from which Copenhaver and consultant John Maxwell returned with the three, based on qualifications only and not names.

Commissioner Bill Lockett was less certain. He learned at a recent National Association of Counties conference of the caliber of candidates that might be available and said he hoped to have some information about the candidates before sitting down for interviews with them July 9, he said.

While Copenhaver reached out to him Friday, Lockett said he hadn’t heard from the mayor since, while other commissioners such as Grady Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson are saying they prefer other candidates.

“I think the mayor is going to have a difficult time getting unanimous support,” Lockett said. “It’s going to be lots of discussion; I just hope it’s not heated.”

While Smith said he might be willing to compromise on a candidate, if others are not the commission might not be able to make a decision, Lockett said.

“It’s a possibility that one of the three will be selected, but it’s a greater possibility that none will be selected,” he said. “If they don’t (compromise), we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Called Augusta Commission meeting

WHEN: 3 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Commission chamber, second floor, 530 Greene St.

Comments (15) Add comment
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geecheeriverman
4771
Points
geecheeriverman 07/23/14 - 04:08 am
5
0
Difference

"what difference does it make at this point"

corgimom
38713
Points
corgimom 07/23/14 - 06:08 am
2
0
"where stability in local

"where stability in local government is the norm"

Hahahaha, I wonder who told Oscar Gonzales that tall tale?

AFjoe
5621
Points
AFjoe 07/23/14 - 06:35 am
2
1
Mr Lockett

You learnt at your conference there might be a better caliber applicant. Of course there is, they just don't want to come to Augusta and work for you.

soitgoes
900
Points
soitgoes 07/23/14 - 07:26 am
4
0
Betcha

The commission vote goes along racial lines, regardless of qualifications or experience.

hoptoad
21851
Points
hoptoad 07/23/14 - 07:56 am
2
0
Soitgoes, I tend to agree

Soitgoes, I tend to agree with you.

Butterbean
434
Points
Butterbean 07/23/14 - 09:09 am
1
0
I am amazed

at the discussions being held in the newspaper about the choices of candidates with regards to whom is supporting which candidate at this point. These are discussions that should be held in the personnel committee. I cannot imagine the situation where a candidate is hired with the knowledge that they were actually the third choice, or that half of the commissioners did not want them.
What a great start for a job in Richmond County.
Sad.

corgimom
38713
Points
corgimom 07/23/14 - 09:43 am
0
2
Butterbean, well, they will

Butterbean, well, they will get a good taste of "how it's done" in RC.

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 07/23/14 - 10:43 am
1
1
Deke's Choice
Unpublished

Since Deke has made it known who his choice is for the next administrator... the commission should consider one of the two OTHER remaining candidates. Actually this should be a decision left up to the new mayor and new commission. How many of these lame ducks will be around when this new administrator is serving?

shamrock
585
Points
shamrock 07/23/14 - 11:44 am
0
0
Keep That Resume Up-To-Date

Whoever gets the job, keep that resume up-to-date. Working for Augusta-Richmond County is about a sure-a-thing as when you die. You will not stay but only the Lord knows where and when you go.

dichotomy
37614
Points
dichotomy 07/23/14 - 01:13 pm
0
0
I have ZERO confidence, or

I have ZERO confidence, or respect, in anyone who would lower themselves to working for the likes of our commission.

triscuit
3266
Points
triscuit 07/23/14 - 01:25 pm
0
0
The new Mayor and new

The new Mayor and new Commission should be selecting this person, not those leaving in January. Deke's gotta protect his backers I guess.

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 07/23/14 - 01:47 pm
1
1
Triscuit nailed it
Unpublished

I mean we have been using an interim admin since January.. almost 7 full months.. What harm is there to continue as-is until January 2015 and let the new mayor and commission choose the next administrator? That would give them more time to field more candidates and pick the best one. Deke is eager to rush this process and get his pick in and commissioners should just say NO to that.

Riverman1
94244
Points
Riverman1 07/23/14 - 02:30 pm
0
1
Butterman makes a good point.

Butterman makes a good point.

corgimom
38713
Points
corgimom 07/23/14 - 02:31 pm
0
0
If a municipality can get by

If a municipality can get by without an administrator for a whole year, do they really need to hire a new one?

Riverman1
94244
Points
Riverman1 07/23/14 - 02:57 pm
0
0
Deke, Go To The Beach

Janice Allen Jackson will be the next Administrator. She will be an effective manager in a way past administrators haven't been. I have no reservations about her. She has a proven track record. She is clearly the best candidate with her local knowledge.

If Deke is actually promoting the New Mexico candidate, I have to wonder.

Pops
14674
Points
Pops 07/23/14 - 03:16 pm
1
0
“It’s going to be lots of discussion;

I just hope it’s not heated.”

Actually....It should be "THERE'S going to be lots of discussion"......
I predict it will be heated and we will read a lot more improper use of the English language...come on Mr. Williams.....we're counting on you.....

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 07/23/14 - 04:23 pm
0
0
Riverman Makes good points
Unpublished

Out of the 3 candidates being presented, I would have to go with Janice Alan Jackson too.. and she will probably be the pick. She is the only one with experience in managing a large Southern city (in Charlotte Mecklenberg).. She is from Augusta.. she knows its quirks and how politics work here. I think that is an asset. Taos, NM is about as far removed from Augusta as you can get in the contiguous US.. in almost every way. Whereas I am sure Rodriguez could bring some new insight to the job from Taos.. he would have an awfully long learning curve figuring out how things work around here.. The deep south is just different..and an administrator has to be able to navigate the peculiar nature of local southern politics. Also, whenever Deke pushes a particular candidate for a job, red flags should immediately go up about who they will really be working for. I say hold off on this decision until the new mayor and commission take office... since they are the ones who will have to be working with the new administrator.

TrulyWorried
16669
Points
TrulyWorried 07/23/14 - 06:08 pm
0
0
No No

What a joke - 25 thousand dollars down the drain and no administrator was chosen. Now the Commissioners will wait until January 2015 when the new government will pick up where they left of.
They've been without an administrator since December and things seem to be rolling along smoothly. Whether or not they are is not for the average citizen to know. Guess we'll just wait and get surprised.

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