Newton County manager Middleton set to retire

COVINGTON — John Middleton announced at the Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday that 2014 marks his last year as county manager.

While he did accept the commissioners’ reappointment, the long-time county employee said he plans to retire in the fall.

“Thank you for your support and I’m pleased to be reappointed. But over the past month, I’ve had some discussions with most of you individually and privately and decided it will be my final year serving the county,” Middleton said during the meeting. “We still have a lot to get done this year. I’m excited to be part of the strategic plan, two-year budget plan, that’s going to make an impact for us and also with the succession planning. That would be before I implement my sunset retirement plan this fall.”

Chairman Keith Ellis said Wednesday the county is in the process of planning out the next steps of succession.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz made a motion at the meeting to bring in a third party in order to receive input on the county’s organizational charter.

“If we are looking at succession planning, it’s very important we really examine our organizational chart and charter,” Schulz said. “As we move someone else into that position, we have to be clear on what our structure will be moving forward.”

“Over the next month or two, I would like to bring David Wills from ACCG to work with us over the session what will give us the strongest government structure before we bring in another person to take on the role of county manager,” she said.

Dave Wills is the Government Relations Manager for the Association County Commissions of Georgia, and assists local governments on various issues.

Ellis said once the work sessions with Wills are scheduled, the county’s charter, which was last updated in 1990, will be discussed.

“We’ve worked with Dave before throughout my first year as chairman. So having him as an independent source can help us take a look at the number of things in our charter that are outdated. Then he can advise us as to what steps to take and also compare with other charters similar to Newton,” Ellis said. “John has done a lot for the county for a long time. The board will be looking diligently to make it a smooth transition.”

When Middleton was appointed in November 2011, he transitioned from an administrative officer to the first county manager in Newton County’s history.

He was given the responsibility for all departments with the exception of roads and bridges, which remained under the authority of the chairman.

The county manager reports solely to the Board of Commissioners and not to the chairman. However, the county manager provides departmental updates to the chairman and the board.

The chairman still retained the ability to hire and fire personnel. However, the county charter requires majority approval of the board for hiring and firing, except in the roads and bridges department.

Before being appointed county manager, Middleton was set to resign from his administrative officer position in December 2011. Former Commissioner Mort Ewing asked Middleton to remain serving but as a county manager, which was upheld by a 3-2 vote at a November 2011 meeting.