Forsyth finally fills key city job

FORSYTH — After operating without a city administrator for nearly five years, Forsyth city officials have finally filled the position.

Greg Popham was hired late last month and began his new job last week. He was selected from a pool of 21 applicants that was narrowed to three finalists, Mayor Tye Howard said.

“We had a very good pool to select from this time, with nine of them having master’s degrees in public administration or related fields. All of the finalists had master’s degrees and considerable experience, so we were confident of hiring a good candidate.”

Howard said Popham was selected because of his extensive experience in the public and private sectors, especially in planning and development financing.

Popham said Friday he has worked as a planner with the Middle Flint and McIntosh Trail regional development centers, as a city administrator or manager in Villa Rica and Bremen, and as a county manager in Butts County. He also has worked in private industry in commercial and industrial real estate development and in commercial real estate financing.

His last job in the public sector was as executive director of the Beall’s Hill Development Corp. in Macon from May 2003 until January 2007. His job was to oversee day-to-day operation of the public-private partnership effort to revitalize the historic neighborhood in a 30-square block area south of Mercer University and west of The Medical Center of Central Georgia.

The city of Macon, Mercer University and the Macon Housing Authority were partners in the project, which received more than $20 million in federal and local funds.

Popham left after an audit was ordered of the nonprofit corporation, but Rick Goddard, who represented Mercer on the Beall’s Hill board, said it was due to conflicting visions, not accusations of misspending.

About eight months after his departure, the audit results showed no misuse of funds but poor record keeping and inadequate oversight during Popham’s tenure.

Popham said Friday he left the corporation because he thought his services with the nonprofit were completed.

Most recently, Popham has worked as an independent consultant for real estate development and business planning.

Last fall, he applied for the Forsyth administrator job.

Howard said Popham’s experience makes him well-qualified to help the city move forward in finding more efficient ways to serve residents and plan for the future.

Planning for growth will be an important part of his job, Popham and Howard said.

“Forsyth has about 5,000 residents now, but in the next five to 10 years, that could increase to 7,500 to 10,000,” Popham said. “We need to be working to have the infrastructure in place to handle that growth.”

As city administrator, Popham will also supervise the city’s department heads, act as the conduit to the mayor and council for city employees and residents, help Howard and City Clerk Janice Hall prepare and monitor the budgets and negotiate contracts for the city.

Howard said it’s a relief to finally have a new administrator on board. Filling the position was one of the goals he and three new council members listed when they ran for office a year and a half ago.

Former Mayor James Pace and the council members serving then had chosen not to replace former administrator Deron King when he departed in 2004, instead assigning some duties to Hall and assuming others themselves.

But Howard said the city charter calls for a city administrator, so he was determined to fill the job.

The first search ended in frustration, however, when the council couldn’t decide between two finalists last October. So they voted to reopen the search last November and have moved slowly to fill the position since then.

“Janice did an admirable job filling both roles, but she was terribly overloaded,” Howard said. “She was happiest of all that we finally hired someone to relieve her of some of the burden.

“And it takes the elected officials out of day-to-day operations of the city and puts us back to serving in an oversight and planning role,” Howard said.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.