County could change struc­ture of lead­er­ship

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­

Newton County’s fu­ture county man­ager is al­ready in place with trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor Tom Gar­rett be­ing ap­pointed to as­sis­tant county man­ager, but what hap­pens when Gar­rett leaves?

County com­mis­sion­ers and Chair­man Keith El­lis seemed to agree at Mon­day’s strate­gic plan­ning meet­ing that the as­sis­tant county man­ager po­si­tion will be tem­po­rary, but of­fi­cials may change the county’s struc­ture in the fu­ture to cre­ate more nat­u­ral can­di­dates for any fu­ture county man­ager open­ing.

El­lis has been work­ing on a plan for a re­vised or­ga­ni­za­tional chart for months, and while the idea hasn’t been pre­sented pub­licly, some de­tails are com­ing out as the board pre­pares to bring in an out­side ex­pert to eval­u­ate its or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture.

El­lis said Thurs­day the idea is to “have a cou­ple of key mem­bers who are ca­pa­ble of han­dling more than one depart­ment at a time; then I think you draw the peo­ple who have the abil­ity who can fill those spots from within.”

In an in­ter­view last week about pro­mot­ing Gar­rett to as­sis­tant county man­ager, Com­mis­sioner Le­vie Mad­dox said he’d like to see a stream­lined re­port­ing struc­ture so there are not 16-17 depart­ment heads all re­port­ing di­rectly to the county man­ager.

In­stead, Mad­dox said he thought the board might move to­ward El­lis’ pro­posal with four to five depart­ment head man­agers or di­rec­tors each over­see­ing mul­ti­ple de­part­ments and re­port­ing to the county man­ager.

Mad­dox said the idea wouldn’t be for the man­agers to make more money, but rather to cre­ate a more fo­cused re­port­ing struc­ture.

“The mes­sage we want to com­mu­ni­cate is we’re fo­cus­ing on the health of the or­ga­ni­za­tion and we want to stream­line things. We need to be more aligned in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient,” Mad­dox said last week.

The sys­tem is sim­i­lar to the one the city of Cov­ing­ton set up in late 2008, when it ap­pointed di­rec­tors over three di­vi­sions: ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices, pub­lic ser­vices and pub­lic safety. The struc­ture was adopted in­stead of hir­ing an as­sis­tant city man­ager and was done to avoid adding a new po­si­tion to the pay­roll, ac­cord­ing to a story in The News.

Po­lice Chief Stacey Cot­ton be­came di­rec­tor of pub­lic safety and over­saw the po­lice, fire and city’s share of the Cov­ing­ton-Newton County 911 Center, which is jointly funded. Util­ity Di­rec­tor Bill Meecham was di­rec­tor of pub­lic ser­vices, over­see­ing the pub­lic works, elec­tric and gas de­part­ments, among oth­ers. Per­son­nel Di­rec­tor Ron­nie Cowan headed up the ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices di­vi­sion, which in­cluded hu­man re­sources, plan­ning and zon­ing, fi­nance and in­for­ma­tion sys­tems.

The city’s changes added $25,000 to pay for pay raises for di­vi­sion di­rec­tors and as­sis­tant di­rec­tors. The city had 10 depart­ment heads re­port­ing to the city man­ager at the time.

The county is ex­pected to dis­cuss the idea, along with oth­ers, in more depth when Dave Wills, a lo­cal gov­ern­ment ex­pert for the As­so­ci­a­tion of County Com­mis­sion­ers of Ge­or­gia (ACCG), leads free work ses­sions in the com­ing months to ex­am­ine all of the pos­si­ble gov­ern­ment types the county could choose.

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