Grantville leaders hold interview for new city manager
by Clay Neely
Members of the Grantville City Council held their first interview for the vacant city manager position Thursday.
Attorney Murray Joseph Weed sat down with four members of the council to discuss the concerns, needs and future plans for Grantville. While Weed has never served in the role of a city manager, he has been a department head and also a manager of various large groups of people in both academic and consulting fields, which include managing people with varied educational backgrounds from no formal education to PhDs. He has worked as an in-house attorney for Lowndes County and for the city of Hapeville and has served as mayor pro tem of Peachtree City.
As a native of Lakeland, Georgia, Weed sees parallels between the relationship that his hometown shared with Valdosta and how Grantville interacts with the city of Newnan.
“Grantville has so much potential,” Weed said. “You have developable land, green areas and you have a real interest in people as demonstrated by the influx of housing.”
Weed noted that while Grantville is currently best known as a commuter community, the room for possibilities is ripe. As an outsider looking in, Weed stated that he hasn’t given up hope but noted the need for more businesses in a bedroom community.
Councilman David Riley posed the question, “What would you do to help our town move into the 21st century?”
“While I’m fiscally conservative, I understand that you have to spend a dollar to make a dollar – it’s the American way. But the key to that balance is simply a matter of using your best judgment,” Weed said. “I feel that Grantville should place an emphasis on finding new sources of revenue. You might have to take a risk to find out what it is, but in the long run, you’ll have less people who are more inclined to drive up the highway for their needs.”
Weed also addressed the need for accountability from every employee, no matter what position they hold.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the town clerk, the mayor, or police chief – the key to running any successful enterprise is good communication and ensuring that each person is adequately trained for their position,” Weed said. “This includes myself. No city manager can operate as an island. You want the highest quality staff possible where you can rely on good people and their work ethic.”
The issue of communication was further discussed. Several members of the council indicated their interest in having a city manager who understands the importance of staying on top of projects and is able to effectively communicate and provide timely information as requested.
“If you need information, all I ask is that you let me know – don’t surprise me,” Weed said. “Things will ultimately come up that you’re not aware of so I’ll need to research it as well. This all comes back to the importance of constant contact. Unless you want to communicate directly to the general populace, you will know exactly what I know.”
In the wake of the recent police chief scandal and Grantville’s reputation for acrimonious city council meetings, the topic of rebranding was discussed at length. Council Member Leonard Gomez expressed the council’s desire to find someone who can restore the town’s credibility and bring morale back to its employees and citizens.
When asked what his immediate goals for the city would be, Weed pulled no punches in his vision for a revitalized public image for Grantville.
“If there aren’t fires, there are embers that you need to deal with. I understand you’ve hired a new chief of police. Whoever you hire for city manager, they need to spend some quality time together,” Weed said. “Also, this community has to improve its relationship with the press. You have to improve your public image.”
However, Weed stated that the city budget is in good shape, noting that $2.5 million comes from enterprise funds, but he feels there is a need to build infrastructure improvements into the budget.
“There are things spread across the enterprise fund that need to be in the general fund,” Weed said. “My goal would be to look into the long-term in terms of moving funds from enterprise into general.”
Weed believes the most important question that the council needs to ask itself is, “What do you want?”
“The city manager is the arm of the mayor and council,” Weed said. “The council sets the vision and manager makes sure it gets done. My primary skill is common sense. I won’t spend a dollar unless there is a justified reason to.”
Council Member Johnny Cooks reflected on the role of the city manager.
“When I used to observe city council meetings as a citizen, I wasn’t exactly sure what his role was,” Cooks said. “Once I was became involved in government, I fully understood that the city manager was the one who ran the council meetings – he was the one who knew what was going on. We would just sit down to determine policy and procedure but it is the CM that is running the show.”
Mayor Jim Sells has been serving as the interim city manager since the firing of ex-city manager Johnny Williams last May and is optimistic about Weed.
“He brings vision to the table,” Sells said.
“His GMA (Georgia Municipal Association) experience makes him very skilled in terms of what Grantville needs,” Sells said. “Getting elected is one thing, but possessing the knowledge on how to run a city is entirely different. He’s an outstanding individual.”