Originally created 09/26/96

Manager prospect visits city



The Augusta Commission's search for an administrator intensified Wednesday as the first of three finalists for the job came to town for a final interview.

George A. Wood, 44, the city manager of Cleveland, Tenn., made the rounds with Augusta officials and answered questions from the media during an afternoon news conference.

Finalists William J. Estabrook, the former city manager of Dayton, Ohio; and Charles R. "Randy" Oliver, the assistant manager of Polk County, Fla. will meet the commission and the public at news conferences today.

The board expects to appoint an administrator at Tuesday's commission meeting, according to Mayor Larry Sconyers.

Mr. Wood, who has 19 years' experience in city management in South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee, said his experiences as the first city manager of two smaller cities taught him the business from the ground up.

"Unlike if you start in a large jurisdiction, you might get pigeonholed in personnel or finance," he said. "So, I think I have good experience across the board."

In his present job, Mr. Wood has the power to hire and fire employees. He acknowledged he's concerned he wouldn't have that authority as administrator, but said he thinks he could cope.

"It's a concern," he said. "I don't think it's insurmountable. I think ultimately if this form of government works, whoever the administrator is, the key is a good working relationship between the mayor, commission, the administrator and the key management staff."

Besides, he said, even though a city manager may have the formal authority to fire people, in reality, no manager fires key department heads without first advising the council.

In May, contrary to the recommendation of their consolidation project manager Bill Carstarphen, Augusta commissioners approved a plan that gives them the ultimate authority in hiring and firing the administrator and department heads.

Mr. Wood resigned as city administrator of Lancaster, S.C., in 1980 because "interference in daily operations by some of the council members was condoned by a majority of the badly split board, with department heads receiving conflicting orders," Mr. Wood stated in his resume.

Wednesday, Mr. Wood said he'd learned to deal with such situations a little better since then, but there are some situations "that even 16 or 17 years later" he wouldn't have played any differently.

Asked whether he was concerned that Augusta commissioners would be micro-managing departments, Mr. Wood said that was obviously a concern.

"They're concerned about their constituents' needs being met," he said. "One of the ways you deal with that is you have a good system of dealing with constituents complaints.

"I think if we do a good job of that you'll see some of that back off."

Mr. Wood said his strengths as a manager are good organizational, analytical and financial skills.

He was the first manager of Cleveland, a city of 34,000 in east Tennessee, 28 miles north of Chattanooga, and of Kings Mountain, N.C.

He is a native of Savannah.