City administrator candidates talk strange line

In perusing the résumés of Mayor Deke Copen­ha­ver’s top picks to replace city Ad­min­istrator Fred Rus­sell, I find it exceedingly strange that references for all three say the candidates don’t get involved in politics.

Stephen Layson, the chief administrative officer of Bibb County, Ga., “does not get caught up in political issues.”

Janice Allen Jackson, a former manager of Albany, Ga., and current principal of a management, marketing and strategic planning firm, “looks past politics.”

And Oscar Rodriguez, the town manager of Taos, N.M., from May 2012 until his March firing, “never gets involved in politics.”

So the question is, why are candidates who avoid politics seeking the most political job in Augusta?

Layson’s references also state that he has “experience and is politically astute,” which raises another question: Why does he want to come to Augusta?

“Mr. Layson was once an elected official, which gives him a different perspective. He understands that mindset.” So he’s as crazy as the rest of them, I suppose.

People listened to Layson. “He brought meetings to conclusion and managed the process.” Wait until he meets commissioners Marion Williams and Bill Lockett.

Jackson, who’s worked for social service agencies in the past, would find her experience real handy in Au­gusta, where elected officials have to work hard to be social with each other. The fact that she creates “win-win situations” would be a plus because both sides usually think somebody’s tricked them into losing.

“She is a good listener, thoughtful, gathers information effectively and challenges conventional thinking.” She wouldn’t have much conventional thinking to challenge in Augusta government.

Rodriguez is “honest, smart and a good problem solver,” which is a big plus because we know the names of 10 problems right off the bat. Eleven, if you count the mayor.

On the other hand, if he’d solved the problems in Taos, he might not have gotten fired.

“He is tenacious, loyal and brave.” Brave might help. But loyal? Loyal to which six? The mayor? The community? Or himself?

Rodriguez “also is idealistic with strong moral values and does not back down. Those qualities can put him at cross purposes with the elected officials at times.” That’s three strikes against him right off the bat.

Augusta commissioners interviewed the candidates last week after a legal meeting where Williams objected to the finalists because they’ve been city managers instead of administrators. He must have had a doctor’s appointment or something because he left after the first interview.

Jackson’s interview lasted an hour and a half, after which everybody was worn out and hungry. It would have been shorter if some commissioners didn’t pontificate, bloviate and preface their questions with rambling speeches about things the candidates don’t know a thing about. So the interview with Layton was much shorter. After lunch, they interviewed Rodriguez, who talks a lot with his hands but came across well, as did they all.

 

BUT SHE COULD LEARN: During Jackson’s interview, Commissioner Grady Smith said, “Tell us a little bit about yourself. Family life, married, children …”

“No. No. No. No,” someone cautioned as Commis­sion­er Wayne Guilfoyle showed Smith the list of questions that were off limits.

“I could sue you,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I won’t. But I could sue you.”

“I’m sorry,” Smith said. “Wrong question.”

Jackson said she’s active in her church, writes and follows her son throughout the South­­east watching him develop as a baseball player.

“You don’t play golf, do you?” Smith asked.

“I’m sorry. I do not play golf,” she said with a laugh.

 

KNOCK KNOCK. WHO’S THERE? I called Russell and asked what he thought about the candidates. He declined the opportunity to opine and just laughed.

 

WILL PEOPLE WHO AREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR THEMSELVES EVER BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PETS? Nothing in recent memory – the renaming of MCG and ASU to GRU being an exception – has created as much public outrage as animal control Director Shar­on Broady’s refusal to allow groups to remove animals from the pound.

After an editorial in Thurs­day’s Augusta Chron­icle asked, “How long will it take to stop the needless killing of innocent animals?” commissioners were barraged with phone calls and swiftly called a news conference to announce that Broady will work with the groups and that killing at the facility will cease until commissioners meet this week to discuss adopting a new policy.

It’s a start, but there’s a long way to go before Au­gusta solves the problem of unwanted animals ending up at the end of a needle at animal control – 13,000 of them over the past two years.

Many are calling for Broady’s firing or transfer to another department, but commissioners Guil­foyle, Corey Johnson and others are standing behind her.

“I think a lot of people just misunderstood what was going on,” Johnson said. “Ms. Broady don’t want to kill animals. I felt bad for her because she’s not that kind of person. She has a background in law enforcement. She’s straight. She tries to work within the law. Her job is not to kill animals. We’re going to support Sharon. If she can figure out a way to work with animal groups, that’s good, but she’s got to support the law.”

And as everybody knows, if people don’t take responsibility for their animals, Augusta will continue to have an influx of them, John­son said.

“These are picked up because they’re roaming the streets,” he said. “We need to figure out how to get pet owners to be responsible for their animals. And whatever we can do to help Sharon save the animals, we’re going to do that.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith says just look at the numbers.

“We take in 9,500 to 10,000 animals a year. All of those cannot be adopted out. So what do you do with the other 8,000?” he said.

Last year, 1,128 animals were adopted from the facility. Rescue groups took 212.

“There are some excellent rescue groups out there, but there are some who take them and breed them, and we can’t check on them,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to people. How many people are willing to go out there and adopt an animal?”

The city has been trying to hire a full-time veterinarian but can’t find anybody who wants the job. Young veterinarians say they can make more money in private practice, retired vets don’t want to do it a few days a week and the established vets in town don’t want the competition. It truly is an overwhelming problem, and if the public doesn’t keep the heat on, nothing will change.

 

HARD AT WORK IN THE BIG EASY: If commissioners would quit traveling so much at taxpayers’ expense, they’d have the money to hire an employee, maybe two, to follow up on cases of people who adopt animals and don’t return with proof that they’ve had them spayed or neutered.

This weekend, Commis­sioner Alvin “Lame Duck” Mason, Williams and Lock­ett are in New Orleans attending the National Asso­ciation of Counties’ Annual Conference and Exposition. That’s more than $6,000 that could go for something worthwhile. They say they learn so much at these conferences, but as I’ve said, I can’t see how since they already know it all.

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Some­times, it’s really not the teacher’s or principal’s fault. The parents have to be held accountable, too, especially those who don’t think an education is valuable. I don’t have a problem holding principals accountable. We have to acknowledge all the people that are at fault. Until parents get involved at their children’s schools, we are not going to grow. With all the free programs and extra help available, there is no reason for a child in this county to not graduate.” – Richmond County Board of Education President Venus Cain, on a proposal to give principals a three-year period to improve students’ academic performance or possibly be demoted.

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