ALBANY — Albany could soon be searching for a leader of city operations as City Manager Sharon Subadan is one of two finalists for the job of city administrator in Augusta.
The city of Augusta is expected to make a final decision later this month between the two finalists, Subadan and South Fulton City Manager Odie Donald, who also is a finalist for the city manager’s position in Savannah.
During a Tuesday Albany City Commission meeting, Commissioner Jon Howard suggested looking at a temporary replacement among current department heads and looking toward finding a permanent replacement should Subadan be selected and accept the new position.
Earlier this year, a vote on Subadan’s contract, scheduled for January at the same time as other appointments, was delayed for six months. The commission extended Subadan’s contract for an additional two years in late June.
At the time of the unanimous vote, some commissioners requested a performance review of Subadan’s work.
The topic of finding a replacement if it becomes necessary will be on the agenda of a meeting when commissioners gather out of town for two days later this month, Mayor Bo Dorough said Wednesday.
“Fortunately we have a retreat,” he said of the sessions scheduled for Sept. 27-28 at Lake Blackshear. “That’s one of the things we’re going to talk about next weekend.
“You’ve got somebody who’s been the administrative head of the organization for five years and has been an influence on an organization; that’s a big void to fill.”
Dorough suggested that the city could hire an interim city manager during the search process if necessary.
Describing the treatment of Subadan as an “injustice,” Commissioner B.J. Fletcher said that over five years Subadan has provided strong leadership and moved the city forward by great strides.
“For the first six months, this commission would not give her the respect of giving her a new contract,” Fletcher said. “This is a devastating loss. Even if she does not get it, it’s a devastating loss.”
Under Subadan’s tenure, the city has completed streetlight, sewer and paving projects, acquired federal funding to resurface runways at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport and began work on a new transportation center that had been delayed for years.
Subadan also was instrumental in the redevelopment of downtown and, along with economic development and other officials, in bringing the new Georgia-Pacific plant to Albany, Fletcher said. She also pushed to spend money with local contractors and vendors.
“You’ve got a woman who for 5 1/2 years never dipped into reserves and never raised taxes,” Fletcher said. “Look at her projects. She has (gotten) the grants. We’ve never had so many grants coming our way, grants we don’t have to match.”
Subadan also has reduced the number of employees on the payroll from 1,300 to about 1,100 while providing the same levels or greater of services, Fletcher said.
“If she leaves now, I will look at anybody and say she has left this city in much better shape than it was,” the Ward III commissioner said.
Subadan has moved projects forward that had been delayed, Howard said Wednesday.
“Some projects that had been on the back-burner, she has been very aggressive that these things will come to fruition as soon as possible,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with being aggressive and assertive. Sometimes as commissioners we kind of get a little bit lax in our way of doing things.
“I don’t always approve, but she has done some good things for the city.”
The delay on approving a new contract was due to the new members of the commission feeling uncomfortable making such a big decision before getting to know and work with her, Howard said.
The vote to approve the contract was unanimous.
“I can’t put words in her mouth, but probably the election of two new commissioners and a new mayor is probably something she pondered,” Howard said. “There are new kids on the block, and she may have wanted to make a move before her contract expires in 2022.”
If Subadan does accept the position, the commission will likely use a firm to search across the country for candidates, he said.
“I think if she gets the job and departs next month, in November, we as elected officials, will have to look at getting someone on board who’s got the expertise and can do it.”