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July 11, 2014

Another career stop

THOMASVILLE — A former longtime City of Thomasville official has entered his second high-ranking interim position in Albany city government, which he described as bloated and fat.

In a 7-0 vote, Albany city commissioners named Tom Berry interim city manager after Berry resigned in late June as interim Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission general manager.

James Taylor, former Albany city manager, resigned this week in the wake of criticism for awarding a $20,000 bonus to a city risk management employee.

“I got frustrated with the politics ad reacted in a poor manner,” Berry said, in reference to leaving the city utilities panel. “I thought it was time for me to go, so I left.”

Berry said some city commission members are “pretty skeptical” about his being named interim city manager. “And rightfully so. They should be skeptical,” he added.

The skepticism, Berry said, is because of methods he used vent his frustrations. “You don’t say the things I said and it just go away,” he explained.

Berry understands concerns of some, considering “improper wording” he used. He declined to elaborate on what he said.

Berry, a Thomasville resident, served as City of Thomasville utilities superintendent for nine months, then as city manager/utilities superintendent a total of 19 years. Since retiring in 2005, he has acted as interim city manager in close to 10 Georgia cities.

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard provides good leadership and wants the best for the community, Berry explained. “I really don’t have any doubts about that,” he said.

Hubbard could not be reached Friday for comment.

When asked what is wrong with Albany city government, Berry said it is “too fat, too bloated. Government costs too much here,” he explained.

Berry added, “When government costs too much, it sucks the wind out of the city.”

He sees no passion for excellence or to do what needs to be done and no excitement for what Albany could be.

Albany has funding of more than $14 million set aside for “sealing the deal” on new economic development projects, Berry explained. The mayor and commission, he said, have “a huge mission for the city,” but are unable to pull things together.

“I don’t believe the community believes in itself,” Berry said.

He added, “I’m going to give the staff some challenges.”

The $20,000 bonus granted by the former city manger is “over and done with,” Berry said. “James had full authority to do that, and I will not second-guess that. He’s a man of integrity.”

The Albany City Commission is “snubbed” by the Water, Light & Gas Commission, he explained, and there is no communication between the entities.

“It is a lot of people’s fault,” Berry said.

Berry will serve as interim city manager on a month-to-month basis. He must give a 30-day notice if he steps down. He will stay as long as he thinks city government is moving forward successfully, but not as long as a year.

“Unless they ask me to leave, it will be more than 30 to 60 days, maybe six to nine months,” he explained.

Berry will begin a search for a city manager and help with the transition when someone is hired.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.

 

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