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Horton to retire in December

COVINGTON -- City Manager Steve Horton's last day on the job will be Dec. 21, he announced to the council Monday night.

Horton first announced his retirement in July of last year, citing health issues. At that time, he said he planned to stay on until around July of this year. When Mayor Ronnie Johnston took office in January, he successfully petitioned Horton to stay on a bit longer.

On Tuesday, Horton said he already planned to take some vacation time around Christmas and it seemed like the easiest way to go ahead and end his 35 years with the city.

Horton said he doesn't have details yet on the process of selecting a new city manager, but he expects the council will begin discussions soon.

As to whether Horton will have input on the new city manager, "All that depends on whether they ask me. I'll be glad to if they want me, or if they want to leave me out or whatever," he said.

Johnston said on Tuesday that he asked Horton to inform the council of his plans during a closed session held after the regular meeting. Johnston said he expects the council will meet in early August to discuss the process for hiring a new city manager. He said that may involve hiring a search firm, adding, "We want to make sure it's open for everybody."

"I'm very happy for Steve. I think he's ready to go in a different direction. Any time this type of stuff comes up, it's an opportunity for the council to come together and do the right thing for the city," Johnston said.

Horton was appointed city manager in 2005 after having served as both public works director and deputy city manager.

In May, Horton was named Local Government Administrator of the Year by the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission.

Horton started his career with the city in the Covington Police Department, where he worked his way up through the ranks over the course of 12 years. In the late '80s, Horton decided to switch career gears, and went to work as a lineman in the city's Electric Department. In 1993, he became the city's safety risk manager. He later served as interim police chief and public works director, and was appointed deputy city manager by former City Manager Frank Turner, who recommended him for the city manager position upon his retirement.