Interim Lee administrator named

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The Lee County Commission has found a temporary replacement to fill outgoing Administrator Alan Ours' position.

The Commission met in executive session during a special called meeting Thursday, then emerged to announce that Al Crace of Roswell had been selected as the lone finalist to fill the position on an interim basis.

Ours will serve his final day as Lee County administrator today and will take over that same position in Glynn County Monday.

"Al Crace of Roswell has been selected as the one finalist to serve as interim county administrator," Commission Chairman Ed Duffy announced after a 20-minute executive session. "In 14 days, we will vote to make this appointment official."

Crace, who was a finalist for the Glynn County job, currently operates a consulting firm that focuses on county and city governments. He previously served as program manager and assistant city manager in north Georgia's Sandy Springs and was county manager in Jackson County.

The Georgia Tech graduate also served as manager of the unified government of Athens-Clarke County, city administrator in Athens and held the position of city manager in Gainesville, Rome, Waycross and Alma. The latter two appointments are in south Georgia.

"I've been aware of Lee County for a long time," Crace said via telephone after Thursday's meeting. "I've talked with people (about the county) at the Cooperative Extension Service, looked at the county's website and I came down and drove around to look things over.

"I'm guardedly optimistic that things will move forward smoothly now, but I've been around long enough to know this process isn't over until a final vote is taken. I'm looking for this assignment to go 4-6 months, until a long-term replacement is found. The interim position is a full-time job, but I think it will deal mostly with handling day-to-day issues."

Both Crace and Duffy said Crace would not be a candidate for the full-time administrator position, the search for which will be handled by the Atlanta-based Mercer Group.

"We're expecting the search to last anywhere from five to six months," Duffy said. "Mr. Crace has indicated that he has no desire to serve as the permanent county administrator."

Crace said he is confident he could manage the position on a full-time basis, but he has agreed to serve only through the interim period.

"I don't think it would be fair (to apply for the position) to the other candidates," he said. "I look at the position in Lee County as laying the groundwork for the person who comes in full-time."

County Attorney Jimmy Skipper said that while he's not certain the interim position constitutes the "head of an agency" that is addressed by Georgia Code, he urged the Commission to "use extreme caution" and treat it as if it were.

Ceorgia Code -- O.C.G.A. 50-18-72(a)(7) -- states that, "at least 14 calendar days prior to a meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken on the position, the agency must release all documents that come into its possession with respect to as many as three persons under consideration whom the agency has determined to be best qualified for the position and from whom the agency intends to fill the position."

Skipper said that while the interim position probably doesn't fall under the statute, he sees no problem with naming one final candidate.

"The Code clearly says 'as many as three persons,' not to name three persons," he said. "The county will follow state Code during this process."

Duffy said Crace was "highly recommended" by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

The County Commission had initially planned to name the new manager of the Grand Island Club Thursday as well, but Skipper said the meeting was called for the Commssion only. The Parks and Recreation Authority, which is made up of the five-member Commission, must call a separate meeting to announce the new manager.

Bill Combs and Uel Kemp were named as finalists for the position on July 21.