Thomasville council weighs pros and cons for splitting up top leadership positions

Thomasville council weighs pros and cons for splitting up top leadership positions

THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) - Splitting the positions of city manager and utilities superintendent in the City of Thomasville has been a popular topic of conversation since a new council was sworn in in January.

On Tuesday, at a city council retreat, both city staff and city council members wrote down reasons for driving forces and restraining forces for splitting up the two positions.

One restraining force was a fear of change by current city staff who have worked under one leader since 1994.

"I don't see the need for a great concern. I think the reasons for dividing it have been laid out" said David Hufstetler, council member.

"We've done really well with being a unit since 1994," said Kha McDonald, interim city manager.

Keith Bass, the interim city superintendent of utilities, said he sees fear in the city government every day.

"There was a thought that I was brought in here to fire a bunch of people, that is not the case and never was," said Bass.

Other restraining forces mentioned were:

  • Utilities are a primary source of revenue for the city
  • Unknown consequences of separation
  • Redundant positions
  • Confusing priorities
  • Unclear chain of command
  • Confusing for staff
  • Diminished expertise
  • Primary source of economic development
  • Added overhead
  • Threat perceived
  • Impact on budget
  • Council as referee, turf wars

"This is about one person, we can't change an organization because of one person. If you don't like that person you can remove them from the position but you shouldn't change a good organization based on one person" said McDonald.

Driving forces as to why the change could or should be made also had many points listed by both city staff and city council members.

The city charter allows for the two positions to be separate, both groups listed that as a driving force.

Other driving forces listed were:

  • Too much power
  • Checks and Balances
  • Public comment during the election
  • Poor communication currently
  • Lack of trust
  • Job is too much for one person

A common question asked was "How much separation are we really talking about?"

When WALB spoke with Former City Manager Tom Berry he mentioned one of the main reasons the two positions were combined in the first place was to eliminate redundancies within the city government.

Some council members mentioned they could have two leaders without having to add two HR departments, two budgets, two different entities.

"Superintendent of utilities would have a lot of power but would ultimately report to the city manager. That would eliminate the turf wars," said Hufstetler

"I disagree; the charter says the city manager is not to supervise the utilities department. If the city manager supervises the utilities superintendent then they are overlooking the utilities department," said Mayor Greg Hobbs.

Hobbs added that the charter would need to be changed to eliminate the possibility of a city manager firing or hiring a utilities superintendent.

Copyright 2018 WALB. All rights reserved.