WARNER ROBINS -- George Brannen, a city employee, stood in the foyer of City Hall with the rest of his colleagues who couldnt find seats in the council chambers.
Its not easy to hear whats going on beyond the glass doors, and all Brannen heard that day was his name.
Then, I saw a hand go up, and then all the hands went up, Brannen said Friday. I figured I was either promoted or fired.
But the standing ovation in the room gave him an indication he had just been promoted as the new Public Works department director, after serving as interim director since September. In fact, City Council voted unanimously Nov. 18 for the promotion, despite an earlier plan to wait until the new mayor took office to vote.
We figured hes there; lets give him a chance, Councilman Paul Shealy said. If the new administration wants to make some kind of drastic change, then they can do that. We thought it was fair.
Brannen is a native to Warner Robins, graduating from Northside High School in 1970. He studied at Georgia Southern University but returned to his hometown when he was just one year away from graduation. His wife pressures him to finish, and Brannen cant figure out why he hasnt.
Its probably all this time I have now, Brannen joked.
When Brannen returned home, he worked for a steel production company in Macon. When he lost his job at the age of 50, it became a blessing in disguise. A year later, the city of Warner Robins was hiring.
I was just fortunate, Brannen said. I was in the right place at the right time.
Brannen began his career with the city as one of the employees responsible for delivering and tracking oversized Dumpsters used at construction sites. That was 10 years ago.
In 2009, Mayor Chuck Shaheen insisted then-director Joe Musselwhite have an assistant director to learn the ropes. In that time, Brannen took over when his boss was out, attended classes for public works and worked closely with the employees.
He already knows the inner workings of the department, Shealy said. It was a no-brainer.
Musselwhite retired in August to run for mayor. At the time, City Council members said they would leave the final decision up to the new mayor. Brannen said he was surprised by councils move, but he has worked with and knows both of the mayoral candidates.
Id like to think I would have been the choice with either one of them, Brannen said.
Musselwhite and Randy Toms, a retired Warner Robins firefighter, will be in a runoff election Dec. 3.
In the meantime, Brannen is continuing the job he has been doing. After a 10 percent raise when named interim director, Brannen made a salary of $68,450. He is near the bottom of his new pay range, $63,900 to $95,800, and will receive a 3 percent raise with most other city employees in January.
Brannen is an easy-going guy with a wry sense of humor.
For him, his strength is in logistics, and Brannen said hell feed on that as leader of Public Works.
My background, even back in the steel business, I was in logistics, making things happen at the right time with the right amount of money, Brannen said. I dont have all the answers. When I need an answer, I just go to the person that does.
Not much needs to be fixed in the department, Brannen said. He will make small changes as time goes on, he said, but it wasnt off the tracks.
Its my goal to be just as (fair) as I can every day, Brannen said. Its a win-win for us. Both of the guys (in the mayors race) are former city employees, and were hoping that they look at our budget and see that we need some new equipment.
That last line was a joke -- sort of.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.