COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council has named the top three finalists for city manager.
Two of the candidates are already city employees -- Covington Police Department Capt. Craig Treadwell and Finance Director Leigh Anne Knight -- while one, Oel Wingo, is a Florida resident who has been in public administration for more than 25 years.
The council met in three executive sessions last week and again Monday night to interview and discuss candidates. Under the Open Records Act, the top three finalists must be released by the city at least 14 calendar days prior to a vote on the position.
The top three candidates were chosen out of 98 applicants, "which in today's world is a lot of interest," said Jim Mercer of The Mercer Group Inc. of Atlanta, the consultant hired by the city to conduct the search.
Mercer said six city employees applied for the position. "It's very unusual to have that many. I think that speaks well to have that many."
The three finalists were notified Tuesday afternoon. "I'm really excited. I'm surprised and relieved and glad to be in the top three finalists," said Treadwell. "I'm very humbled to be picked out of so many people that applied for the job."
Treadwell has been with the CPD for 30 years. He began his career as a deputy sheriff with the Newton County Sheriff's Office. He joined the CPD in 1982 as a uniform patrol officer. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1985 and to division commander/captain in 1997.
Treadwell said his experience in leadership roles makes him qualified for the position of city manager.
Treadwell has served in every division of the Covington Police Department. He commanded the East Metro Drug Enforcement Team and the SWAT team, the Criminal Investigations Unit and is currently commander of the Uniform Patrol Division.
Treadwell is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He has a master of public administration degree from Troy University and a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Mercer University.
"I appreciate the city being good to me and I plan to keep giving 100 percent to them," he said.
Knight could not be reached for comment by deadline. According to documents on file with the city, obtained through an Open Records Request, Knight began her career in finance in 1992 with Bel Tronics, Ltd. in Covington as a financial analyst. She has worked with Briscoe and Briscoe, P.C.; Glenn Parker Electrical Contractors; Knight and Tabb Insurance Agency and was hired by the city of Covington in 2009, as financial director. Knight also serves as assistant city clerk.
Among Knight's responsibilities are preparing and managing the city budget and approving budgeted and emergency purchases during the year.
Knight has a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting from North Georgia College and State University and is a certified public accountant.
Oel Wingo currently serves as interim city manager for the city of Williston, Fla.
"I'm excited to be in the top three. I'm very impressed with the city and look forward to continuing to be considered by the council," said Wingo.
Wingo began her career in local government management in 1995 as the assistant city manager for Ocala, Fla. She has also worked as assistant city manager for the city of Palm Coast, Fla. and Holly Hill, Fla. Wingo said she has managed cities ranging in population from 1,000 to 100,000.
Wingo was fired from her position as city manager in Holly Hill and was the subject of an ethics complaint by the city in 2011, but was exonerated in October 2012. The State of Florida Commission on Ethics initially found probable cause that Wingo misused her position and resources to attempt to enter into pre-dated employment agreements, to destroy public records that were evidence of wrongdoing, and to attempt to enter into agreements which exceeded her purchasing authority, according to a report from October 2011. But a year later, an administrative law judge and the State Ethics Commission cleared Wingo of the charges.
Wingo said the charges were "totally bogus" and said such complaints often occur when people "have an ax to grind" against those in the public sector.
"It's unfortunate that people abuse the Ethics Commission in that way," she said, adding that the intent of the commission is to protect citizens and make sure government is run with honesty and transparency.
According to a report on file with the city, Wingo said her termination occurred after an election when new council members came on board, including three former city employees. Employees had objected to salary and benefit adjustments made as a result of reduced revenues. Wingo said changes she was hired to make were not received well by some in the community. Wingo said the ethics complaint was filed in an attempt to avoid paying her severance package.
Wingo said she was born in Savannah and considers Georgia her second home. Wingo holds a doctor of philosophy and bachelor of arts from the University of Florida, a master of arts from Southeast Missouri State University.
The Covington City Council was responsible for narrowing down the candidates and held in-person interviews with the top eight candidates. Billy Bouchillon, public works director who has served as deputy city manager for the past year, is serving as interim city manager following the retirement of Steve Horton.