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Canton Regroups After City Manager Finalist Withdraws

The city of Canton has to start over in its search for a new city manager.

Credit: Patch file
Credit: Patch file
Now that the dust has settled from the announcement that Billy Peppers is no longer the sole finalist for the Canton city manager position, it's back to square one for the city's leaders.

The Canton City Council now has to go back to the drawing board in an effort to fill the position, which has been vacant since early January when Scott Wood resigned.

Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said the City Manager Search Committee will mostly likely meet sometime next week to "decide how to go from here." Hobgood, who was an avid supporter of Peppers' getting the job, expressed disappointment in how the situation turned out for the city.

“I’m extremely disappointed and I think it’s really Canton’s loss here for sure," he said, adding he thought Peppers could have injected some energy and enthusiasm into the county seat's atmosphere. 

The city received 41 applications — 12 of which were from out-of-state applicants — and the city manager search committee interviewed eight candidates. Hobgood said the most likely next step would be for the committee to review the existing pool of applicants and go from there. 

The mayor went onto say he could understand why Peppers, who served as the Main Street Woodstock Director before moving on to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, thought it was in the best interest to withdraw his name from consideration. 

Since 2005, Canton has had four full-time city managers: Benny Carter, Bill Werner, Rob Logan and Scott Wood.

Benny Carter, served from November 2002 to September 2005. Bill Werner was then tapped for the position, and later left the city in 2007. 

Rob Logan, who initially served as the city's Chief Financial Officer, was tapped to serve as the interim in October 2007 and was named the manager full-time in May 2008.

However, Logan returned to the CFO position in April 2009 when the city couldn't find a replacement for that role and Mayor Hobgood served as the interim manager until Wood was hired in October 2009.

Councilman Glen Cummins has serve as interim manager since January after Wood resigned. 

While a lot of residents reacted positively to the news, there were some who questioned why the city bypassed candidates with managerial experience in favor of Peppers. 

"We’ve had people with experience and those have not turned out so well," he said. "We’ve had people who were looking to hang in there, build up their retirement and move on." 

Hobgood said the public was in support of Peppers' receiving the job, so he said he was surprised at the reservations expressed by city council members Jack Goodwin, Glen Cummins — who is serving as interim city manager — John Rust and Hooky Huffman. 

Both council members Bill Grant and Sandy McGrew, who were also in support of Peppers, expressed their dismay at the fallout.

Grant wrote on his Facebook page that "given the negative reaction from some, I am not surprised."

"Most of all, I am disappointed for the citizens of Canton who overwhelming approved of this qualified candidate," he added. "Moving forward, I hope we keep in mind the fact that we have excellent city employees, especially our dedicated and competent department heads. They will play a vital role in the orientation and training of any hire, regardless of the amount of experience."

McGrew takes a phrase from Peppers' letter (see attached), and notes a "consensus in vision and teamwork" has been lacking in the city for the past few weeks.

"We shall move forward and I have faith that the search committee will bring forth another candidate who will do the job that needs to be done," she added.

For Councilman Hooky Huffman, the blame falls onto Hobgood, as he knew he did not have enough votes from the council to support Peppers. 

"It bothers me a lot the way it handled," he said. "It should not have been handled that way. The mayor knew there weren't enough votes."

The four councilmen who openly criticized the choice faced a firestorm of criticism, mostly on Facebook. When asked how he felt about those who criticized the majority for their reservations, Huffman said the situation boils down to whether Peppers was the right person for the job.

He cites Canton Police Chief Bob Merchant's 30-plus years in law enforcement, and the many hours City Clerk Susan Stanton has to take in order to perform her job duties. Those same standards should also be upheld in the city's quest to find its next manager, Huffman said.

"This is not an on-the-job training position," he said. 

Joe Johnson March 29, 2014 at 09:55 AM
Here's a fun fact: Every sitting council member was handpicked and was actively campaigned for by the current mayor. Here's another: Every member of the previous council was handpicked and was actively campaigned for by the current mayor. For those of you in Rio Linda (aka the main street machine) if you still don't get it, you never will.

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