Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon will be appointed Covington's deputy city manager this week, but he will not be the eventual successor to City Manager Steve Horton.
The Covington City Council reached a consensus Monday, after coming out of executive session on a separate issue, that the position of deputy city manager should be created and that Bouchillon should be placed in the position. Bouchillon, 50, will remain public works director as well.
The council does not have any authority to create positions or hire employees, but Horton agreed that a city manager was needed and that Bouchillon was a good choice. He said he would officially appoint Bouchillon this week.
"I do think the position is needed...Various council people have expressed concerns that they would need something and I'd be tied up or away," Horton said Tuesday. "The city has a $120 million budget, and serves citizens in and outside of town, and there needs to be someone responsible in charge at all times."
Horton plans to retire this summer, but new Mayor Ronnie Johnston has made it a priority to keep the city manager on board.
"As far as any decision on my part to stay with the city for a longer period of time, I have made no such decision to date," Horton said in an email. "I do know that the new mayor wants to talk with me about this issue. Also, I am honored, and humbled to say that I have had many of our citizens and customers to ask me to consider staying a while longer."
Horton is planning to retire because of increasing health issues, and he said the deputy city manager will be able to fill in as needed. The city could decide to search for an outside deputy city manager, but Bouchillon was a natural choice to hold the position in the short or long-term opinion.
As public works director, Bouchillon oversees engineering, water and wastewater, facilities maintenance, the safety/risk program and the automotive shop. He also served as assistant public services division director under Bill Meecham; the public services division includes utilities (electric, gas and telecommunications) as well as public works.
"Honestly, I don't think (my duties) will change a lot. Having the authority, knowing Steve will stand behind any decision I make when he's not here. In the past, I haven't felt it was my place to make those decisions. I'll still be over public works. Hopefully customer service will send a lot of complaints to me instead of Steve," Bouchillon said Tuesday.
Councilman Chris Smith was the biggest proponent for a deputy city manager and said Tuesday he had been pushing for the position since he was elected two years ago. He suggested Bouchillon be appointed and was excited by the move.
"He is very good with customer service. Customers would call me about garbage not being picked up, debris left on side of road, grass needing to be cut on the right of way, a tree limb that fell and blocked a driveway, every time I called him he has promptly responded to my request," Smith said Tuesday.
"A lot of the citizens call us when they can't get through (at the city) and I need to rely on one person. I don't need to call Steve every time a limb is blocking Ivy Street, but a No. 2 guy will be able to call and handle it."
Smith said he would still go to Horton for any major issues, but would probably turn to Bouchillon for minor problems.
Horton said Bouchillon would get a minimal raise, but the budget would not be significantly increased.
Bouchillon said he was honored by the offer and happy to take some weight off Horton's shoulders. He said he has no desire to be city manager now or in the future.
"I was just proud they had that much confidence in me. I've dealt with every member of the city council; they have all called from time to time with little fires that need to be put out," Bouchillon said. "I've lived here my whole life. I've worked here for 31 years. I know a lot of the citizens here. It kind of comes natural to me to work with people. I told Steve I always do what I feel is right...and try to treat people the way I want to be treated."
Bouchillon and his wife, Kathy, have six children, Katie and Kyle Bouchillon and David, John, Michael and Jordan Leifles.