GUYTON — The City of Guyton’s administrative ship is just a few days away from having no hands on deck.
City Manager Daniel Hofman resigned recently and is set to depart for a job in Vermont on Dec. 20. In addition, City Clerk Alison Bruton resigned in November.
In order to fill the dire leadership void, Mayor Jeff Lariscy suggested during Tuesday’s Guyton City Council meeting that a committee be formed to negotiate an agreement for Brett Bennett of Laurel Street Consulting to provide city management functions and oversee the hiring of a new city manager and city clerk in accordance with the city charter and city policy.
“To be without one, we have been able to do but, without both, it is going to be next to impossible, which is why I reached out to Mr. Bennett to see if he could share some of his experience and expertise with us in the form of an interim arrangement,” Lariscy said.
Bennett served the City of Rincon as its finance director for about three years and was Springfield’s city manager for 12 years. He surrendered the Springfield post in June to start his own business.
“I stepped down to pursue some other ventures for myself,” Bennett told the council. “One of them was (the Georgia Municipal Association’s) interim manager program.”
The GMA offers local government entities a list of qualified candidates to help them after their managers resign or are terminated.
“It almost always includes the recruitment process for a city manager — a permanent replacement — and that would be the ultimate goal to work out of that position,” Bennett said.
Lariscy initially discussed Guyton’s situation with Bennett during a Friday phone call.
“I told him I would consider the role on one condition and I hope he shared that with you,” Bennett said. “I wanted him to reach out to everybody in this group to make sure everybody was in agreement with this. If there was any significant opposition, no harm, no foul, no hard feelings.
“If everyone is not supportive, it’s not going to work.”
As is frequently the case, council discord emerged immediately. Post 3 Councilman Joseph Lee said he reached out to the International City Managers Administration in an effort to find more candidates.
“We do have more people interested in coming here and doing the same job,” Lee said.
An audience member asked, “Where are they?”
“It doesn’t matter where they are,” Lee replied. “They are willing to come here and do the same job he is and give us more options that just one person.”
Lee used a similar tactic to block three recent attempts by the mayor to name a police chief, a post that has been vacant for several months. Lee refused to support the mayor’s police chief choice during a full council vote despite serving on the committee that recommended him and eventually suggested another name late in the process.
“Mr. Bennett is local,” Lariscy said. “He knows the community. I would say he somewhat knows what Guyton has been doing. He’s been following Guyton. I have talked to him a little bit here or there.
“I just think that gives him ... That would make me feel better to reach out to him. That’s just my thoughts.”
Eventually, Lariscy, noting the need for immediate help, mentioned the police chief controversy.
“And I’m certainly not going to go through an interview process and try to find somebody, and then propose them — because I’m not doing that,” he said. “I’m putting forward Mr. Bennett at this time. If y’all want to consider somebody else, I’m out. Y’all can pick whoever you want to but Mr. Bennett would be the smart move is all I’m saying.”
Post 2 Councilman Dr. Franklin Goldwire interjected his thoughts after Lariscy finished.
“Let me just say this,” Goldwire said. “I, too, have worked with Mr. Bennett. I know him very well. I support him coming aboard with us if it works out with the committee like he said.
“I think he would be a good choice. Of course, I don’t know the other people but I do know Mr. Bennett and I can speak for him and past relationships, and working together. I think he would do a good job.”
Lee then weighed in on the matter one more time.
“Everybody I have asked about Mr. Bennett has given him a good record, you know, about service for Guyton,” he said.
A committee will be formed to discuss the situation further with Bennett. It will include Lariscy, Mayor-elect Russell Dean and Lee.