Transitions: Henry County, VA; Little Elm, TX; Mitchell County, GA and more

Benny Summerlin
1958-2012

Henry County, Virginia (population 54,151): The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Monday named Tim Hall county administrator in a unanimous vote, according to the Martinsville Bulletin. Hall, 52, who had been deputy county administrator, also was named the new general manager of the Henry County Public Service Authority (PSA). He will earn $126,184.79 for the dual roles that became vacant when Benny Summerlin, 53, of Axton, died Wednesday. Debra Buchanan, of the Horsepasture District, made the motion to appoint him to the post. H.G. Vaughn of the Ridgeway District seconded the motion, and the final vote followed an estimated 45-minute closed session meeting to fill the post. Jim Adams, chairman of the supervisors, said the board had other options, including appointing an interim administrator. The PSA Board of Directors also met Monday and took similar action. Hall was named deputy county administrator and also assistant general manager of the PSA in 2002, the same year Summerlin was appointed county administrator and general manager. Adams said only the administrator and county attorney report directly to the supervisors and noted that those are the only positions the supervisors fill. However, he said the vacant positions Hall previously held will first be posted internally to determine whether there are any interested and qualified applicants. Hall will make that determination and fill the two vacant posts, Adams said. Hall, who also served as the county’s public information officer, had served in a number of capacities in the Henry County school division, including teacher/coach and public information officer. He became news director at WMVA Radio in 1990, after leaving his nearly 10-year job as a writer/reporter and columnist for the Lynchburg News & Advance. Hall earned his MBA from Averett University in 2007; was a 1981 graduate of James Madison University and also a 1977 graduate of Martinsville High School. Hall and his family live in Collinsville.

Little Elm, Texas (population 25,898): The Town of Little Elm has selected Matt Mueller as the new town manager, according to the Little Elm Journal Star. Mueller, who has served as the city manager of Guthrie, Okla., will begin his service with Little Elm on Sept. 17 after he completes his current city’s budget. Little Elm Interim Town Manager Doug Peach described Mueller as very personable who will “only go to improve our current level of customer service.” When Mueller arrives, the town will introduce him to Little Elm ISD administration and principals and city officials in neighboring cities and within Denton County. Little Elm has been without a town manager for the last seven months. Peach, who served as the assistant town manager before the town manager’s resignation, has stepped up during that time to act as interim until the town could find a new one through a search firm. Mueller will be coming from Guthrie, a city that also has a lake and similar challenges that Little Elm has, Hillock said. The town’s emphasis has been on making customer service a priority and improving it. Mueller has also served as deputy city manager for Claremore, Okla., and the management analyst for Edmond, Okla. He currently serves as a board member for the City Management Association of Oklahoma. Mueller received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Central Oklahoma. While there, he was the president of the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society and was awarded the political science department’s student leadership award. He received his Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Some of Mueller’s major accomplishments have included completing a new water treatment plant in Guthrie that will serve the city for the next 40-50 years. He has also aided in providing for infrastructure needs and long-term financial needs. Mueller discovered Little Elm’s search for a new town manager through the town’s search firm’s website and through his fellow colleague, the city manager in The Colony. Mueller said he has networked with several city managers in the area, describing the Dallas Metroplex as having “really innovative governments.” Mueller described the town council as a pro-growth group that has a great vision for the community. Little Elm’s growth is very intriguing and comes with both a tremendous amount of opportunities and challenges, he continued. When he arrives in September, Mueller plans to learn and absorb the first couple of months to really get a feel for Little Elm. He expects local government to be as efficient and productive as possible. Mueller has been married to his wife Rachel for almost 10 years. They are expecting their first child early next year. The Town of Little Elm will host a public meet and greet when Mueller arrives to introduce him to the community. The date is to be determined.

Mitchell County, Georgia (population 23,498): The Mitchell County Commission has voted to dismiss its county administrator, according to the Albany Herald. In a 3-1 vote, with one commissioner absent, the commission decided Tuesday to terminate Administrator Jerry Presley, citing a clause in his contract that allowed for the dismissal, Mitchell County Clerk’s office officials say. Commission Chairman Benjamin Hayward of District 1 was the sole commissioner to vote against termination. Attempts to reach Hayward on Thursday were unsuccessful. The Albany Herald, however, did obtain a copy of the handwritten dismissal letter sent to Presley that was signed by Hayward.

“Please allow this to serve as written notice of the termination of your employment contract with the Mitchell County pursuant to paragraph 12(a) of said contract,” the letter states. “The Board of Commissioners understands that you are entitled to three months of your annual salary together with other compensation provided in paragraph 12(b) of said contract. The board of commissioners believes that you are not a good match for Mitchell County.”

The paragraphs mentioned in the letter refer to the termination clause of Presley’s contract that states that either party can terminate the contract for any reason given at least 30 days of notice. Paragraph B states that if the contract is terminated but Presley is still able to perform the duties at the time of termination, that the county should pay him three months of severance and reward him with any leave or sick time he’s accrued. Following the vote, the commission voted 4-0 to reinstate Jerry Perminter as the county’s interim administrator until a full-time replacement can be found. The decision to dismiss Presley comes less that five months after commissioners voted to offer him the job on April 25 and less than three months after he accepted on June 4.

Wilmington, Massachusetts (population 22,325): The process of finding the replacement for retiring Town Manager Michael Caira was a smooth one, according to the WilmingtonPatch. So it comes as little surprise that the ensuing contract negotiations have been met with a similar result. According to both sides of the negotiations, a contract for Jeff Hull is likely to be finalized in September, and could be announced during the next Board of Selectmen meeting, which is slated for Monday, September 10. Negotiations have been taking place throughout the summer, and continued as recently as Monday during executive session of the Board of Selectmen meeting. Board of Selectmen chairman Mike Newhouse said he, like Hull, anticipates that there will be another executive session at the September 10 meeting, and a contract could be voted on that night by board members. Newhouse said it’s likely the executive session could take place before the regular agenda so that when open session begins, the contract could be finalized. Caira’s official last day is slated for September 30, and Hull’s contract will likely go into effect on October 1 when it is finalized. Though this will be Hull’s first Town Manager position, he has served as Wilmington’s Assistant Town Manager for several decades. Hull said he knows replacing the longest tenured Town Manager in Wilmington history will be no easy task, but it is a job he looks forward to.

Snellville, Georgia (population 18,242): Snellville officials have hired a new city manager to take the city helm, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post. Mayor Kelly Kautz announed the appointment of James C. (Butch) Sanders Thursday, a day after the city council voted after meeting in executive session. Slated to start on Monday, Sanders replaces Russell Treadway, who left the city earlier this year to return to his Tennessee home. Police Chief Roy Whitehead has served as interim city manager since May. Sanders, who has 25 years of experience in municipal work, resigned in February as Henry County’s manager. He has also worked for the city of McDonough and spent nearly 20 years with the city of Dalton. The Florida native received a bachelor’s degree and master’s of public administration from the University of Georgia. He and his wife Jennifer have two children. Terms of Sander’s contract have not been set.

Jasper County, Georgia (population 13,900): The Jasper County Commission voted unanimously August 14 to immediately terminate County Manager Greg Wood under terms of his contract, citing section 9.06, according to The Monticello News. The action came after a closed session lasting nearly an hour, and was applauded by many in the audience. The commissioners then agreed for Assistant County Manager/Chief Financial Officer Lorri Smith to serve as interim county manager. They also agreed to compensate Mrs. Smith $10,000 annually for the additional duties.

Washington, Iowa (population 7,266): The Riverside City Council has hired Russell “Rusty” Rogerson as its new city administrator/clerk, according to The Journal. The council voted to hire him at a special council meeting Wednesday afternoon, and less than 24 hours later Rogerson was hard at work in city hall.

Seat Pleasant, Maryland (population 4,542): After a two-year search to find its top administrative official, Seat Pleasant is once again in the market for a new city administrator, according to The Gazette. Vincent Jones announced his resignation effective Aug. 24 on Monday. He said he is departing to be the new deputy chief of staff for Richmond’s City Council. The Richmond, Va., area native served as Seat Pleasant’s city administrator since June 2011, becoming the first permanent replacement in the position since 2008. The City Council will discuss how to move forward in a closed session Monday, said Mayor Eugene Grant. Prior to Jones, the city’s last permanent city administrator was Sandra Yates who was fired in 2008 shortly after the September 2008 election. Of Yates’ exit, Grant said that personnel changes were common with new administrations coming in. Alex Rodriguez served as acting city manager during the search for a long-term replacement from December 2008 to April 2009. After Rodriguez and the city parted ways for reasons undisclosed because of a personnel issue, city treasurer Robert Ashton served as an acting city manager until Jones was hired in June 2011. Grant said he knows it will be a challenge to attract a permanent replacement because he wants a salary more competitive than the $80,000 annual one the city provides. However, with projects such as the $30 million to $50 million City Center project that includes a new City Hall and housing for seniors, he is confident the city will find a replacement that will move the city forward through its revitalization. Jones said he is proud of being able to update the city’s personnel manual and help the city develop a strategic plan that includes the city’s vision for future economic development and expanding public safety. Jones said he will miss the close working relationship he had with the Seat Pleasant city staff the most. Councilwoman Elenora Simms (Ward 1) said she wants the City Council to look through the candidates they considered when they hired Jones.

New Castle, Colorado (population 4,158): Tom Baker, former town manager for Carbondale and Basalt, has been offered the chance to do the same job for the town of New Castle, according to the Post Independent. According to a proposed “employment agreement” that will be considered by the Town Council tonight, Baker is being offered the job of town administrator, at $88,000 a year, plus benefits. The agreement, attached to the Town Council agenda for tonight’s meeting, did not indicate when Baker is expected to start work. Baker replaces former administrator Andy Barton, who left in May to take a job as town manager in Mesquite, Ariz. At the time he left, Barton was being paid $96,700 a year. The council offered the job to Baker after also considering former Snowmass Village assistant town manager Leslie Klusmire, former Venice, Fla., city manager Martin Black, and Monte Vista town manager Don Van Wormer. In addition to his salary, Baker will receive certain benefits, including use of a town-owned car for official purposes, and for commuting to and from work. Baker, who currently lives in Carbondale, also will be required to move to the New Castle area within a year, under the provisions of the proposed contract. The town has agreed to pay up to $3,500 in relocation expenses to make the move, and the contract states that “failure to do so [move] shall automatically terminate this agreement” unless Baker and the town agree to extend the deadline. Baker has logged considerable governmental work experience in Western Slope communities, having worked as a planner, assistant city manager and director of affordable housing in Aspen and Pitkin County prior to his jobs in Basalt and Carbondale. He also has run his own consulting firm, Baker and Associates, since 1994.

Fort Yukon, Alaska (population 583): Dave Richards, the former Pahrump town manager, has moved back to Alaska to take a position as city manager of Fort Yukon, a tiny community more than 100 miles northeast of Fairbanks, according to the Pahrump Valley Times. Richards was Pahrump town manager from January 2004 to February 2008 and left to become manager of Hoonah, Alaska, a community of 900 people just outside Juneau in southeastern Alaska. Richards left Hoonah in 2011 and came back to southern Nevada to live in Las Vegas. For the past year, he was seen at numerous political events in Pahrump and admitted he was looking for a job locally. Richards was appointed to the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission June 5 but was gone by this Wednesday’s meeting in which the board rejected a request for a conditional use permit by exotic animal owner Karl Mitchell. Richards was actively involved in the discussion on the Symphony Animal Foundation request at the July 11 RPC meeting. Richards said his two-year stint in Hoonah was in coastal Alaska; his new job in the interior will be quite different.

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