The Forsyth City Council is considering charter and ordinance changes to shift to a city manager form of government.
The move coincides with the resignation of City Administrator Thomas White last month.
This year, Mayor John Thomas II brought up the issue of conflicts between city ordinances, which include job duties for the city administrator, and the city’s charter, which outlines mayoral responsibilities.
City ordinances, for example, say that the city administrator “shall be responsible for administering and coordinating the daily operations of all departments of the city.” The city charter says that the mayor shall “exercise supervision over all executive and administrative work of the city and provide for the coordination of administrative activities.”
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“The majority of municipalities in the state already operate under the city manager system, and this would bring us in line with that,” Councilman Jimmy Jones, head of the Administrative Committee, said of the prospect.
White submitted his resignation July 22 and worked until July 31. The parting was described as amicable, but the reasons were discussed only in a closed council session. Several council members declined to comment on the resignation. White was also voted three month’s severance pay, or $17,000.
White was hired in 2011. Before joining Forsyth, he retired to Monroe County after 30 years in the National Guard. He declined to comment on the matter through a former city colleague.
The changes to the charter and ordinances make the search for a new administrator more complicated, but council members said they hoped to hire someone to work as city administrator, then change his or her title and duties once the charter changes take effect.
City Clerk Janice Hall will serve as interim city administrator until a replacement is hired. In the meantime, she will hire an assistant with human resources experience to help her with the duties of clerk and administrator.
A search for White’s replacement will begin after a job description is drafted to include the duties of a city manager once the charter is changed. Council’s Administrative Committee is set to discuss the job and the charter and ordinance changes at its next meeting Friday morning.
WORK TO DO BEFORE JANUARY
Changes to the city’s charter would have to be approved by the General Assembly, so the goal is to fashion those before the General Assembly convenes again in January, Jones said.
“We hope to have it done by the end of the year to have it in the hands of the legislators so they can carry it with them” to Atlanta, Jones said.
Council can change the ordinances, including the ordinance that spells out the duties of city administrator, without the General Assembly. However, the changes to the charter include the duties assigned to the mayor that also must be revised to shift to a city manager form of government. The charter supersedes the ordinances, so a shift to a city manager would require the charter changes, Hall said.
The shift, which council members said this week would be agreeable to the mayor and council, would create a city manager position to run the day-to-day operations of the city, with legislative oversight of the council. The city manager would serve as a chief operating officer, hiring and firing city employees and operating with greater autonomy than the city administrator is now allowed, guided by the council.
Thomas did not return phone messages Wednesday or Thursday.
The council voted Tuesday night to work with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission to explore the changes. If the council decides to go forward with the charter and ordinance revisions, the commission will draft the changes for approval by the council, Jones said.
There will be a work session with the commission, the council and mayor to go over the proposed changes and to confirm that they all want to change the governmental form before the changes are drafted, said Councilman Eric Wilson, who is also a member of the Administrative Committee.
Wilson welcomed the idea of the changes to a city manager form of government.
“We would be able to be policymakers -- the legislative branch -- and not have to engage in the day-to-day operations of the city. That would allow us to be more aggressive in finding ways to grow the city forward.”
To contact writer Mark Vanderhoek, call 744-4225.