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Middleton on change to county manager
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Newly appointed County Manager John Middleton met with department heads and constitutional officers Friday morning to review with them changes made to the county's government.

All departments, outside of public works, are now reporting directly to Middleton after the Newton County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday night to create a county manager position and to place Middleton, who had been county administrative officer, in the position.

Middleton said the opportunity to work more closely with department heads and overall county operations was the reason he accepted the position of county manager. However, he doesn't see the change significantly affecting their day-to-day activities. He had tendered his resignation in July and planned to retire Dec. 15, but is now planning to stay on.

When asked Tuesday whether he would take the job, Middleton said he would "consider it contingent on working some details out with the board." He said Friday those details have not yet been discussed as he hasn't yet had a chance to communicate with the board.

He said if he decides to stay on past Dec. 15, he would be hopeful that the board would choose to renew his contract in January, when the board also renews the annual contracts of the county attorney and clerk.

When asked why he was moving to the Newton County Administration Building, he said the Board of Commissioners is the body that assigns office space. Middleton expects to move during the next two to three weeks.

The county will not hire dedicated clerical staff for Middleton but use existing staff, as there are no available funds, and he said the creation of the county manager will not result in any additional costs.

Prior to this reorganization, Middleton had chiefly focused on the county's finances. While he will continue to review financial reports, he said the Finance Department will handle more of this work, a transition that's already been in place for the past year. He will devote more of his time meeting the administrative needs of other departments.

"My work with departments in day to day operations has diminished the last few years and was mainly a financial focus. I discussed this concern and budget process with the chairman when I submitted my resignation in July. I would not have chosen to remain with Newton County to continue in that same role," Middleton said in a Thursday email.

Middleton said he and chairman will continue to work together and he does not anticipate any issues.

He plans to meet individually with all department heads during the next couple of weeks. When asked if he will try to restore some paid holidays to employees, he said he will work to address those concerns as the county works through next fiscal year's budget.

Middleton was hired by Newton County in 2000 as finance director and promoted to administrative officer in 2001.