County Man­ager Mid­dle­ton to re­tire in late ’14

Board to study struc­ture be­fore seek­ing Mid­dle­ton’s re­place­ment

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­news.com

County Man­ager John Mid­dle­ton an­nounced Tues­day he will re­tire in late 2014 af­ter a 14-year ca­reer with New­ton County.

Mid­dle­ton made the pub­lic an­nounce­ment af­ter be­ing unan­i­mously reap­pointed by the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers.

“I want to thank you all for your con­fi­dence and kind words and sup­port. I’m pleased to be reap­pointed as the county man­ager, but over this past month, we’ve had dis­cus­sions with you all in­di­vid­u­ally and pri­vately. This will be my fi­nal year serv­ing New­ton County,” Mid­dle­ton said.

“We still have a lot to get done this year. I’m ex­cited to be a part of the strate­gic plan (and) work on a two-year bud­get plan that will make an im­pact for us, also with the suc­ces­sion plan­ning this year. And that would be be­fore I im­ple­ment my sun­set re­tire­ment plan this fall.”

Fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment, Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz made a mo­tion to hire Dave Wills, a lo­cal govern­ment ex­pert for the As­so­ci­a­tion of County Com­mis­sion­ers of Geor- gia (ACCG), to hold two work ses­sions in Fe­bru­ary to ex­am­ine all of the pos­si­ble govern­ment types the county could choose be­fore mov­ing for­ward to find a re­place­ment for Mid­dle­ton. The mo­tion was ap­proved unan­i­mously.

Mid­dle­ton was first hired as fi­nance di­rec­tor in 2000 and pro­moted to

ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer in 2001; he was given more au­thor­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity when the board ap­pointed him county man­ager in Novem­ber 2011. That move also re­moved au­thor­ity from the county chair­man’s po­si­tion, which some res­i­dents felt at the time should not have been done without a pub­lic vote.

Prior to New­ton County’s move to a county man­ager form of govern­ment, the county man­ager and chair­man jointly over­saw some de­part­ments; af­ter the change in govern­ment, the county man­ager over­saw all de­part­ments, while the chair­man was only placed in charge of roads and bridges, a re­spon­si­bil­ity stated in the county char­ter.

The two po­si­tions still work to­gether on is­sues, and Chair­man Keith El­lis now over­sees en­gi­neer­ing and fleet man­age­ment, which were pre­vi­ously tech­ni­cally un­der the county man­ager.

Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son said he felt the chair­man should guide the board through the process be­cause he is elected in a county-wide vote.

“Be­cause up un­til a few years ago, we made a de­ci­sion to have a county when the power was in the chair­man’s hands,” Hen­der­son said, “I think we need to sit down as a board and see if we want to change it.”

Com­mis­sioner John Dou­glas said he be­lieves some changes need to be made, and “it’s the time to ex­am­ine how we do busi­ness here.” But Dou­glas said if any changes need to be made to the char­ter, that de­ci­sion must be made by the state leg­is­la­ture, not the county com­mis­sion. Since the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral As­sem­bly, which only con­venes once a year, is plan­ning to end its ses­sion ear­lier this year, pos­si­bly by mid- or late-March, Dou­glas said the county has to hurry if it wants to make a change in 2014.

Hen­der­son asked for County At­tor­ney Tommy Craig’s opin­ion, and Craig said the board bring­ing in Wills and con­sid­er­ing all of its op­tions seemed like a “rea­son­able so­lu­tion.”

Govern­ment struc­tures in Ge­or­gia are quite var­ied. Some coun­ties have both a full-time elected chair­man and county ad­min­is­tra­tors or man­agers -- gen­er­ally the dif­fer­ence is that a man­ager has hir­ing and fir­ing au­thor­ity, where an ad­min­is­tra­tor does not, Wills said pre­vi­ously. Other coun­ties have only a part-time chair­man, and some smaller coun­ties have only a full-time chair­man and no man­ager.

New­ton County first hired a county ad­min­is­tra­tor in 1985, Craig said pre­vi­ously. Craig was also reap­pointed as county at­tor­ney, and Jackie Smith was reap­pointed as county clerk.

Mid­dle­ton

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