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Sims begins Monday at helm of Newton County government
Newton County Historic Courthouse
The Historic Courthouse in Covington where the Newton County Board of Commissioners meets. - photo by File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — Jarvis R. Sims was to begin work Monday, March 7, as interim county manager after Newton commissioners narrowly voted to agree to a contract with him.

The Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday, March 1, to offer a one-year contract to Sims at a base salary of $150,000 — $15,000 more than former county manager Lloyd Kerr received before he left the job Jan. 1.

Sims’ contract is for a one-year period and will end March 6, 2023, said county Human Resources director Amanda Shoemaker.

The county also will pay for insurance and benefits, including professional dues and for attendance at any training sessions offered to government administrators, Shoemaker said.

Sims will be entitled to 75% of his annual salary plus continued payment for insurance benefits if he is involuntarily terminated despite being willing to perform the contract duties — the same terms Kerr worked under that some commissioners had issues with.

He also would receive performance appraisals when commissioners choose to conduct them, and be entitled to any cost of living allowances (COLAs) given to other county employees, Shoemaker said.

District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders asked when a request for applications for the permanent county manager position would be posted. Shoemaker said it would be done at an unspecified time after the interim position was filled.

Sanders also asked why a pay rate higher than Kerr’s was in the offer.

“Shouldn’t it be increased once we get a county manager and not increase it for a temporary, or possible temporary (manager)?,” she asked.

District 2 Commissioner Demond Mason also asked the amount of Sims’ original salary request.

Shoemaker replied that Sims asked for a salary around $140,000 after the Board interviewed him Feb. 8. He later upped his request above $150,000 “but we settled on 150,” Shoemaker said.

She said Sims also is being offered a different level of benefits than other county employees. Local governments in Georgia typically will offer top administrators working under contracts unique benefit packages, Shoemaker said.

Sanders said she had a problem with payment of nine months’ worth of benefits if Sims was involuntarily terminated — which she said she opposed in Kerr’s contract.

She sought to delay the Board’s action on the contract by making a motion to table it until some of her concerns could be addressed. 

“There is a lot in this contract that needs to be discussed,” she said.

However, commissioners voted 3-2 against Sanders’ motion, and then voted 3-2 to agree to the contract as Shoemaker explained it.

Commissioners Stan Edwards, Demond Mason and Ronnie Cowan voted for it and Sanders and Commissioner J.C. Henderson voted against it.

Covington resident Susan Jackson, a frequent speaker during Citizen Comments parts of Board meetings, said she believed it made a “horrible decision” to choose Sims over the other finalist, Washington, D.C., deputy mayor Lucinda Babers.

“I pray that he succeeds and that he’s capable,” Jackson said.

The county manager is responsible for submitting the annual budget to the Board and overseeing day-to-day operations of the parts of county government not supervised by constitutional officers — the sheriff, probate judge, tax commissioner and Superior Court clerk.

Board members on Feb. 21 voted 4-0 with one abstention to offer a contract to Sims for the interim position over Babers.

Sanders said she abstained because she objected to the hiring process that only allowed commissioners to interview the two finalists. 

She said she wanted to know if applicants met the basic qualifications. The county charter also does not prohibit commissioners from taking part in interviews prior to finalists being named, Sanders said..

Sanders said she believed a poll taken of commissioners on their choice for the interim county manager position — before they voted publicly during the meeting — was an illegal action because it was a vote taken outside of public view.

She said she did not "agree with polling behind the scenes and knowing who's going to be the next county manager."

"I don't believe in polling behind the scenes. That's illegal," Sanders said.

Sims earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State University, a master’s degree in business administration from Mercer University and an online certification in government digital transformation from Harvard University.

He formerly was a finalist for county manager of Spalding County and city manager of Forest Park in Clayton County, both in 2021.

Sims worked as manager of capital projects and the public safety administrator for the city of East Point before former Augusta administrator Janice Jackson hired him as deputy city administrator in August 2018. 

He stepped in as interim administrator when Jackson resigned eight months later and served a year and a half in the position.

Augusta city commissioners later hired Odie Donald as administrator in April 2021 and Sims left the city government after Donald said he wanted to hire his own deputies.

Editor's note: Commissioner Alana Sanders' quote concerning her reason for abstaining from the Feb. 21 vote in a previous version of this story was updated for this version.   

Jarvis Sims
Jarvis Sims (Special | City of Forest Park)