Thomasville's Tom Berry named interim chief of Albany WG&L

Tom Berry will serve as interim general manager of Albany's Water, Gas & Light Commission until a permanent manager is chosen. (Carlton Fletcher)

Tom Berry will serve as interim general manager of Albany's Water, Gas & Light Commission until a permanent manager is chosen. (Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Former Thomasville City Manager Tom Berry was introduced Wednesday morning as interim general manager of the Albany’s Water, Gas & Light Commission at that board’s mid-month meeting.

Berry, who became the city of Thomasville’s utility manager after leaving his position with Georgia Power and later served for a decade as the Rose City’s city manager, said he will be with WG&L for “as long as it takes them to find a permanent general manager.”

“I’ve never been one for sitting back and observing,” Berry said after sitting in on his first commission board meeting. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and there are certain processes that I’ll want to see in place. They’ll use a different terminology, call things by names I’m not used to, but in general there are things in this industry that are the same everywhere.

“I think the board members and the staff will create the urgency as to what we need to turn our attention to first, but I’m looking forward to working here to make this the most efficient organization it can be.”

After resigning from his city manager post in 2004, Berry and his wife formed Thomasville-based Underwood and Co., a consulting firm that offers trouble-shooting services to utility and government agencies. He’s served in similar positions to the one he now holds at WG&L “pretty much all over the state: in Elberton, Commerce, Cairo, Camilla and Moultrie, to name a few places.”

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, who also serves as chair of the Water, Gas & Light board, said Berry is just what the doctor ordered as the search for a permanent GM continues.

“I’ve been asking people all over the state for help in finding someone who knows and understands the kind of organization we have at Water, Gas & Light,” Hubbard said. “A number of people told me ‘You’ve got the perfect person right there in your backyard.’ Mr. Berry seems to come to us as advertised; I think he’s prepared to evaluate our organization and help us become even more efficient.

“I think he’ll be able to shed a whole lot of light on this organization while he’s here, and I think it’s an advantage that he won’t have a dog in the fight. He has no interest in taking the job permanently, so he can keep a proper perspective on our needs.”

Berry’s contract, which he calls “open-ended,” indicating that it does not include an end-date time element, calls for a salary of $6,500 a month. “That includes everything, all expenses, with no benefits,” he said.

City Manager James Taylor, who has served as interim WG&L general manager since Lemuel Edwards announced his retirement earlier this year, called Berry “a treasured resource who will help us move forward.” Taylor, who had to leave the WG&L meeting early for another appointment, said on his way out, “Tom is going to work with us like Butch Mosely is doing with the school system. He’ll manage the operations and help us search for a permanent general manager.”

Berry confirmed that he has “absolutely no desire” to apply for the GM position permanently.

“As a rule, this is an extremely complex business,” he said. “Albany, since they handle water, gas, electricity, sewer and telecommunications, is a little moreso than most municipal utilities. But from what I’ve seen they do a good job of working with the community. I’m looking forward to working with the organization, and my hope is to leave it in better shape than when I got here.”

Berry watched, along with WG&L board members, the slide show “A Custmer’s Journey” created and presented by members of the utility’s Administrative Services staff.