PORTERDALE, Ga. — Porterdale’s mayor admits she was “dumbfounded” by the interim city manager’s notice he was resigning his position in mid-August.
And the interim city manager, Robert Witcher, declined to give the reason for his notice that was given to city council members on the same night they approved a major city financial reorganization plan.
However, Mayor Arline Chapman said she will recommend the council begin advertising for a new city manager before Witcher’s departure from his dual roles as interim city manager and public works director.
Chapman said the council “needs to meet, discuss the position and decide the next move” to fill the position — which also serves as the city government’s chief administrative officer, according to the city charter.
“Since the position also carries the responsibility of CEO, it is necessary to move forward,” Chapman said.
Witcher informed council members Monday, July 20, in a letter he was leaving both city jobs in 30 days.
However, Witcher declined to give a reason for his decision or if it was tied to the council’s actions to approve the reorganization plan — which the council modified from an earlier plan recommended by Witcher and City Clerk Linda Hanna.
“It’s been an honor to serve the citizens,” he said.
The council appointed Witcher as interim city manager in August 2019 after former city manager Bob Thomson resigned after nine years amid a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe into possible city financial improprieties.
The Monday, July 20, meeting was called for council members to approve a three-year plan sought by the city auditor for reorganizing the city’s finances to repay almost $1 million in debt to a variety of agencies, including the Newton County Water & Sewerage Authority.
Among other actions, the plan left all city employees except police administrators and officers at 80% of their current pay and with increasing insurance premium costs through 2022. They also already had approved a tentative four-mill increase in the property tax rate.
Witcher and Hanna had recommended the same pay cut for all employees and a two-mill increase.
Chapman said Witcher gave council members copies of his notice after the Monday meeting.
“We were dumbfounded. I guarantee that I was,” Chapman said.
“I spoke with Robert the next morning,” the mayor said. “I greatly regret his decision, have respect for his integrity and wish him success.”
Chapman said Witcher “has always been a greatly valued employee” in his 15 years with the city.
“He has with great skill managed Porterdale Public Works. He stepped in to the position of interim city manager with the support of mayor and council.”
Witcher said he likely will return to the private sector where he began his career with a trenching company before being hired by the city in 2005.