Mayor Gene Hobgood said Monday the city has so far heard from five or six local candidates interested in the job and more applicants are being sought through an ad on the Georgia Municipal Association’s website until the end of the month. But he added it is too early to tell exactly how long the search will last.
“It’s really hard to say. It could be a fairly short search, or, if we don’t have someone that we can essentially agree on, it could be extended,” Hobgood said. “The shorter, the better.”
In the meantime, Councilman Glen Cummins, who is in the third year of his first term in office, has been acting city manager since mid-January when the council approved him taking that job — and the $10,000 a month that went along with it, less his council salary. Cummins replaced Chief Financial Officer Nathan Ingram who worked the job for two weeks after the council Jan. 2 approved accepting Wood’s resignation and giving him more than $77,000 in severance.
Hobgood has appointed a search committee including new councilmen Bill Grant and John Rust to find a new city manager, and the council has been meeting in closed, private sessions to discuss the search. Georgia law allows councils to discuss personnel matters in closed sessions but doesn’t require any meeting be closed. All binding votes must take place in a public meeting.
Councilman Hooky Huffman, a vocal critic of Wood’s resignation, said the council talked about the city manager job for more than hour in a closed session after Thursday night’s council meeting. But he said he signed an agreement not to speak publicly in any detail about the private meetings.
“Obviously, we all know (the job) is a point of discussion. It is a continual discussion,” Huffman said Monday. “It’s progressing. There’s some that want to move a little bit faster than others. I guess that’s to be expected. The mayor wants to move a little faster. I’m for moving right along.”
As the city continues under the thumb of Cummins, Huffman said he’s actually heard good things.
“You know, I haven’t in the past been a real big fan of Mr. Cummins, but what I’m hearing from some people that are employed by the city is he’s doing a good job,” said Huffman, who has a history of butting heads with Cummins and the mayor.
Grant, who took office just minutes after Wood turned in his resignation, also said he couldn’t go into much detail about the search.
“We’re really just trying to get organized,” he said “I know the goal and the commitment by the selection committee and the council as a whole is at this point to get it done as quickly as possible but also be very diligently and thoughtful in our approach. I just couldn’t really give a time frame at this point.”
Grant said the city is reviewing the local resumes and is waiting for more from the ad with GMA, which is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that offers services to cities in the state.
Grant added the search committee planned to meet Thursday, but the weather could change those plans.
For Hobgood, a local candidate might be the best option.
“I think we need to initially look at our local candidates and expand that if we don’t find someone on the local level that we feel very, very comfortable with,” the mayor said. “If you go on an extended search and you find somebody from California that is a perfect city manager candidate on paper, they’ve still got a big learning curve to go through once they get here, as far as learning the community, learning its people. I think a local candidate, if there’s one that’s a pretty good match for the city, they’d certainly have an advantage.”