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We want to see city manager government do well

Last Monday was the first day at the office for Jasper’s new, full-time city manger Brandon Douglas. We want to go on record as saying we hope to see this new form of government be successful and work in the best way possible for the residents of Jasper and Pickens County. 

We also want to formally welcome Douglas to the position and to the community at-large, and we encourage local leaders, businesspeople, civic groups and the public do the same. 

The Progress doesn’t typically use editorial space to give our well wishes to newly-hired or newly-elected officials, but the separation of the mayor and city manager positions is historic for Jasper, and the road to this point was a highly-contentious, one several members of council believed in and fought long and hard to attain, so we think it’s worth saying in print. The city council voted to separate the mayor position and city manager in January 2018. They had been held by the same person (John Weaver) for decades. Douglas, former Assistant City Manger from Acworth, was selected from a pool of candidates for the job. Douglas, as well as the council members who hired him, have an opportunity to show the public how their decision is a step in the right direction - one that will foster more open and productive discussion among local leaders, more transparency, better responsiveness to the electorate, and tangible and positive outcomes for the public. 

The city’s change in government reminds us of the long, tedious process the county went through to move from a sole commissioner to the current three-person board. The powers that be at the time resisted the change, arguing a sole commissioner could move quicker than a multi-person board when it came to decision-making, policy changes, emergency response, etc. - but the three-person board has provided more representation for residents and significantly improved checks and balances. 

We recall commission meetings under a sole commissioner as brief and nearly non-existent, lasting just 10 minutes (at most) with zero discussion and what amounted to little more than reading the agenda. Under a multi-person board they moved to longer regular meetings and the addition of a work session, both with board discussion. The move to a three-person board also spurred along much-needed changes to a grossly mismanaged finance department following a public outcry, which led the county to more transparent financial operations, better money management, and reduction of the county’s reliance on short-term loans called Tax Anticipation Notes. We think these changes, which included the hiring of a new CFO, would have taken much longer under the sole commissioner form of government. 

Over the last several months we have seen a very few developments, mostly internal, that are positive outcomes from the separation of city manager and mayoral positions – fair vacation time for emergency and utility city employees and a new sick policy that doesn’t require employees have a doctor’s note after one day out of work. Now, we’d like to see positive moves in the city that impact the public, including in the areas of economic development, recreation, job creation and general quality of life. 

We’d also like to thank City Manger Jim Looney, who resigned from both his full-time job and duties as council member to take on the role, for filling the position during such a confrontational time in the city’s history. Best of luck to city council and the new city manger during this crucial period in Jasper’s history.