The Decatur City Council voted Wednesday to raise the pay of Director of Development Wally Terry’s possible successor by as much as $21,000 because the initial search for an assistant director of development failed.
The council approved the new position with Councilman Billy Jackson casting the lone vote against the measure because he said the position of transitional director of development “creates a bad precedent.” Councilman Charles Kirby abstained.
Terry plans to retire April 30, 2020, so Human Resources Director Richelle Sandlin said she led an unsuccessful 60-day search for an assistant director of development with the advertised salary range of $63,241 to $96,229.
Sandlin said the search didn’t draw the experienced candidates the city wants as an eventual successor to Terry.
She proposed, with the support of a Personnel Board recommendation, a two-step increase to a range of $77,053 to $117,246 as the advertised salary for a transitional director who would be guaranteed a promotion to replace Terry when he retires.
After Terry retires, the new director would move up another step, which has an $85,053 to $129,418 range, making the pay equal to the other city directors.
The director of development director oversees Planning, Community Development, Engineering and the Building Department. Sandlin said that’s too many departments for one person to direct, so it makes sense to have an understudy for Terry and later hire an assistant director.
Jackson said he opposed the change because the city “will have to pay two full salaries for an indefinite period of time.” He said the City Council should let Terry retire and then hire him for the 90 days allowed by law to train the new director.
“This is not a criticism of Wally,” Jackson said. “He’s done a lot of good things, but he’s also been the benefactor of poor decisions by the City Council.”
Jackson said Terry’s successor “should be handled like any other director’s (vacant) position. The City Council does the interviews, hires a director and then that person works under probationary status.”
Council President Paige Bibbee said she doesn’t think this move sets a bad precedent.
“Each position stands alone, and this is a very big position for the city,” Bibbee said. “Whoever follows Wally will need training.”
Prior to abstaining in the vote, Councilman Charles Kirby asked for a clarification on what would happen if Terry changed his mind and decided not to retire.
City Attorney Herman Marks said the council could reject the request because Terry “induced” the City Council into taking the step of creating the succession plan based on his announcement that he plans to retire.
“There would be no ambiguity in the understanding that person is being hired into a transitional role,” Marks said.
In a related measure, the council also approved hiring GOVHR, a recruitment service, to seek applicants for the transitional director of development, planner, asset management specialist, and director of the Morgan County Regional Landfill.
Jackson also voted against this resolution, which passed 4-1. He said he cast a no vote because he believes the Human Resources Department may be hiring too many consultants to conduct job searches.
“We’ve got to be more frugal,” Jackson said.