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Posted: August 23, 2012 12:31 p.m.

Oxford city manager to retire

The city of Oxford is looking for a new chief executive following City Manager Clark Miller's announcement early this week that he is retiring.

Miller, 60, who has been city manager since mid-2011, is retiring because of health concerns but will stay on until a replacement is found, which Mayor Jerry Roseberry said should be within two months.

Roseberry said city leaders will ask the Georgia Municipal Association, an advocacy and trade group for city officials, and the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, a state government entity that oversees the region of the state including Newton County, to help in the search and recruitment.

"We anticipate interviewing several applicants before finally settling on one," Roseberry said Thursday.

The position is expected to pay a starting salary of $50,000 to $60,000, and Roseberry said officials are looking for a candidate with some combination of education, such as a degree in public administration, and practical administration experience.

"Ideally, it would be somebody from a town similar in size to Oxford. But we're not the typical small town being connected to Emory like we are. We also have our own electrical service, water and sewer service," said Roseberry, who noted that Oxford provides all 12 services that the state of Georgia allows cities to provide. "We have a lot of activity in a town of 2,500 people, and a couple of different departments that have to be managed, electrical and water. They would have to have some business background, or at least understand income statements and balance sheets."

Oxford officially moved to a city manager form of government July 1, 2011; under that system, the city manager is the top executive in the city but still reports to the council as a whole, though he's not answerable to any one individual.

Oxford's overall operating budget was more than $4 million this fiscal year, with a general operating budget (not including electrical and water sales) of $1.76 million.

Miller looks back
A police officer by trade, Miller experienced a somewhat circuitous route in his path to becoming the first city manager in Oxford's history.

He initially retired from full-time work around 2004 after spending more than 26 years with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. He took on a couple of part-time jobs in the field before local resident Doug Bolton told him about a interim chief of police job in Oxford.

That seemed like a good fit for Miller who was hired and began working in 2008, and just kept on working, eventually becoming the permanent chief.

When the Oxford City Council decided to switch to a city manager system, Miller was thought of as a natural choice to become interim city manager. He then was named official city manager and has been running the city ever since.

Now though, the stress of all those years in police work has finally caught up to Miller, who's calling it quits and looking forward to a more relaxing time spent on the golf course.

"As all old guys do, we develop certain maladies," Miller said Thursday. "The doctor said he would like me to lower my stress levels and so that's all I'm trying to do. A lot of that is my own personality type and how you go about doing work and that kind of stuff. You develop habits that make you successful over years, the way you do your work and the intensity you put into it. But the body type changes, and soon you have a pill for this and a pill for that. Then (the doctors) say, ‘You may want to make a change.' So I am.

"It's not the job, not the people and not my employees. Truly everybody does their best to work together here, but it's just a thing where I need to make a lifestyle change for the long term."

Roseberry had only praise for Miller, saying he was instrumental in reforming the city's police department and brining a higher quality of law enforcement to the town.

"There were some serious problems in our public safety department. We changed police chiefs and changed the standard for officers we hired. Clark fit in there great with that, and now if you apply for a job as an officer, you better have your act together or you're not going to walk in here... A lot of guys fail and don't get through. Now, we're proud of you, be confident that you'll behave yourself. We have not had one serious complaint since he's been there.
"We're sorry to see him go."

Though Miller has no plans to move from his Snellville home, he imagines he'll stay in touch with good friends in Newton County. However, he said he'll miss time spent with coworkers the most.

"The people and the city and the cooperation and the general demeanor of a small town," Miller said, when asked what he'll miss. "I came from DeKalb, which doesn't have that, and I was on the county end of it, not in a city. I enjoyed the small town and small-town approach to policing. It gave me an opportunity to meet and know who you're dealing with, not just one of 750,000 residents who want the police to attend to an issue. It was a much nicer view of civil service."

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