City managers are 'hired to be fired' 


One comment about your recent article on the city manager's search. First: I believe that Major Johnson has badly messed up this search for a new city manager and unfortunately has shredded most of the goodwill he's built up over the last seven years as well, because of a badly considered desire to "make history."

But in your description of the other candidates and their past issues, I think you've stated an unintentional calumny against them in your emphasis on the "problems" that they have in their backgrounds.

As the former city manager for Tybee Island, I can attest that being a city manager is a high wire act, performed before varying audiences with different investments in your success or failure.

One of the traps of municipal management is that unlike the Federal or State levels, city governments are often less specific on what constitutes "proper" or "improper" use of funds, awarding of contracts, or hiring of staff.

During my 18 months at Tybee, every major decision I made, and most minor ones as well, seemed to generate a "winner" and a "loser," with no regard for the concept that the city's overall interests should trump individual factions' interests.

In short, there is no such thing as a blemish-free city manager, unless he or she has been a total nebbish. Managers have to lead and at the city level this phrase is all too true: "Friends may come and go, but enemies tend to accumulate."

Savannah's history of only two city managers over the last what; 30 years? is NOT the norm. Most other places are far more volatile and local politicians are seldom very honest about the real issues that led to the dismissal of a city manager.

We're like football coaches; we're hired to be fired.

Hopefully this process will end with a decision to restart it, this time using the International City Manager Association and the Georgia Municipal League to help search for a varied field of qualified candidates. Time will tell.

Tom Cannon



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