Savannah council votes to reboot search for long-term city manager

click to enlarge Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, left, appears with interim City Manager Michael Brown at a December press conference. - PHOTO BY NICK ROBERTSTON
Photo by Nick Robertston
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, left, appears with interim City Manager Michael Brown at a December press conference.
Just months after Savannah’s City Council tapped retired City Manager Michael Brown to resume his former role on an interim basis, a new search for a permanent city manager is officially underway.

During their Feb. 26 meeting, City Council approved the motion to execute a search process for a new city manager with an 8-0 vote. According to Brown, the process is slated to begin within the next three weeks.

Brown served as Savannah’s city manager during 1995-2010. In 2016, City Council hired Rob Hernandez to permanently fill the role, but he abruptly resigned in April of 2019 and was replaced on an interim basis by retired Chatham County Assistant Manager Pat Monahan. Monahan oversaw a nationwide city manager search in 2020, but City Council declined to hire any of the short-listed candidates, and instead asked Brown to return as a fill-in beginning in November after Monahan re-retired.

The first step in the search for a long-term city manager will be for a headhunting consultant to speak with each council member for input about what traits the candidates should possess, Brown said. Next, the city will solicit community input through a survey requesting suggestions about desired characteristics and skills among candidates.

Brown said that a recruitment brochure will be sent out through professional journals, newspapers, and websites, with the nationwide recruitment phase expected to last for about a month and a half. The consultant will help narrow the field to determine the best options, before the council must take an active role in the final selection process.

Alderwoman Estella Shabazz estimated that based upon the city manager’s timeline, the process may be finished toward the end of June.

“I want it to go quickly, but not where people will lose confidence that it’s being thorough and inclusive,” said Brown, adding that his replacement should be selected with discernment.

“This city of Savannah needs a manager who can handle these top issues of poverty reduction, income equity, eradicating blight in this community, especially and above all reducing violence − just the tragedy of violence − and then finally the housing initiative that is underway, so we need a candidate who must be totally comfortable and dedicated to this task,” said Brown. “And they have to have the patience of Job,” Mayor Van Johnson added right before the motion passed.

About The Author

Brandy Simpkins

Brandy Simpkins is the community/ event journalist for Connect Savannah. Simpkins is a born and raised Savannahian and an alumna of Savannah Savannah State University where she received her B.A. in English Language & Literature. Simpkins enjoys writing more than anything else in the world. She is a curious journalist,...
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