COVINGTON — With Newton County Manager John Middleton set to retire later this year, the Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to create an assistant county manager position after a closed session at Tuesday’s meeting.
Transportation Director Tom Garrett was offered the position in order to learn from the current county manager then step into Middleton’s role once he retires.
Garrett could begin his new responsibilities on Monday, Jan. 27 if he accepts the new title. The job description and salary were not disclosed as of Wednesday.
County Attorney Tommy Craig’s office is handling the negotiations for the position, Chairman Keith Ellis said.
“In executive session, the voting members came to a consensus on who they believe would be able to become the county manager for a long time to come,” Ellis said. “Compensation packages are yet to be determined and the negotiations are being handled by the county attorney’s office.”
Attempts to reach Garrett for comment before press time were unsuccessful.
“He (Garrett) is in quiet, prayerful contemplation and will inform the county soon,” Ellis said. “In the meantime, the county attorney is studying the salary schedule and the job description as instructed by the board.”
The newly created position was not advertised internally nor were any interviews conducted, according to Commissioner Nancy Schulz.
She voted against hiring Garrett, because she said the decision was rushed.
“We agreed unanimously at the last meeting to bring in Dave Wills from the ACCG for two work sessions to discuss our organizational charter. I urged that we postpone the decision until after those work sessions,” Schulz said.
Ellis said the work sessions to discuss the organizational charter with Wills from the Association County Commissions of Georgia were not scheduled as of yet and it will be up to the board members to vote on how the county operates.
“We knew at some point we’d have to find someone to fill the county manager position, but it was a hasty vote and now this position doesn’t know who to report to, what the job description will be or what compensation is included,” Schulz said.
Commissioner Levie Maddox said he’s a proponent in the decision to move forward in the county manager succession planning.
“I’m excited that we made a decision and a strong decision that moves us forward,” Maddox said in an interview Wednesday. “I think going into the meeting last night, we weren’t sure if we were going to make a bold move, but I’m excited that we did. The organization and community need to know that we were thinking through and looking down the road to prepare for Mr. Middleton’s retirement.”
Schulz said the county should have conducted interviews.
“We didn’t have a fair process and what does that say to our employees?” Schulz said. “We didn’t advertise or give an opportunity for others to step forward. The board acted hastily. This is not an issue about Tom Garrett’s ability, but is an issue about the process. The process was flawed.”
Despite Schulz not agreeing with the decision, the motion to offer Garrett the position was upheld by the four commissioners.
“I want to commend the voting members of the BOC during this process. They discharged their duty in a way to expedite the process of finding someone to fill the big shoes of Mr. John Middleton. They worked together to come to a consensus for the best of the citizens of our great county,” Ellis said. “Mr. Garrett is qualified, bright, honest and filled with integrity. I will strive daily to do whatever to help him be a success. We were blessed to have someone of his caliber ‘in house’ to promote. Congratulations to him.”
If Garrett fills the new assistant county manager position, he would continue some of his transportation responsibilities while attending budget hearings and committee meetings, Ellis said.
“He will need to complete some of the transportation projects that are underway, but we want him to be able to be available for any budget hearings, committee meetings that occur during the budget process, but also learn day-to-day activities,” Ellis said.