Changes at the top of city government show trends emerging

Since Mayor Teresa Tomlinson was elected, her administration has replaced 13 of 30 appointed director positions. Most of the hires have been local and most have been women.
Since Mayor Teresa Tomlinson was elected, her administration has replaced 13 of 30 appointed director positions. Most of the hires have been local and most have been women. mowen@ledger-enquirer.com

In her  5 1/2 years in office, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has replaced a full third of the 30 appointed department directors in the Columbus Consolidated Government. Since her election in 2010, some directors have reached retirement age; some have been promoted or moved on to bigger jobs elsewhere; some have left under a cloud.

“I know when I came in there was a flurry of things,” Tomlinson said. “There has been a transition in city government and in the city as a whole as we transition from sort of what Columbus used to be, the way business used to be done, to how people are doing it today.”

Tomlinson and City Manager Isaiah Hugley said that in the administration’s early years, still in the grip of the Great Recession, the city was able to hire people from outside that it might not otherwise have been able to attract.

“In some cases, with some of the people we brought in during the recession, we got good people at low salaries,” Hugley said. “Some of them, once the economy got better, went back on the market and got better jobs.”

Tomlinson said the city has benefited from that opportunity.

“The Ross Horners and the James Worsleys of the world, particularly that we brought in from the outside, brought in innovation and some fresh thinking about new ways to look at the Civic Center, new ways to look at Parks and Rec,” Tomlinson said.

Horner, the Civic Center director, announced this week that he’s taking another job in town, and Worsley, the Parks and Recreation director, left in July for a position in Virginia.

Several trends emerge from a close look at the 13 hires (three have been replaced twice) that Tomlinson’s administration has made at the director level. Of those 13, six were hired from outside the Consolidated Government and seven were hired from within.

Hugley said if all things are equal, he likes to hire from within, so workers know they have a possibility of moving up the ladder.

“But I never go into a situation saying I’m going to hire from within,” Hugley said. “They compete with external candidates and earn the position.”

In some hires, due to the circumstances of the department at the time, external candidates are needed, Hugley said.

“I knew at Parks and Rec, we needed an external candidate and when Dale Hester left the Civic Center, I knew we needed an external candidate,” Hugley said.

Another trend also shows that, just as the city is hiring from within more often, it is also hiring women for director posts more often. That’s a double-edged sword, Tomlinson said.

“We’re seeing more and more women coming in to these department head levels, which is a great thing for the city and a great thing for society as more women are taking leadership roles,” Tomlinson said. “But it’s also indicative of the fact that we have a suppressed pay scale.

“When you tend to start seeing that women are the ones who are competitive for these positions, it’s because the pay that we still have, and everybody knows and recognizes nationwide pay disparity in this country. And so when you’re not going to be competitive salary-wise, it’s going to be the women who rise to the top.”

Tomlinson said since the economy began recovering, it’s a trend that she and Hugley have noticed during the hiring process.

“It’s an interesting phenomenon that the city manager and I have noticed, that when you find that the majority of candidates are women, and they’re local, it begins to tell you that you’re not priced competitive to pull in a full panoply of candidates from other jurisdictions,” Tomlinson said. “Someone doesn’t want to move somewhere for a stagnant or reduced pay scale. It’s something that we have to address.”

In all, the Tomlinson administration has replaced 13 department directors.

With the looming departure of Ross Horner as Civic Center director, the administration will have to replace the third director who was hired during Tomlinson’s tenure.

Previous Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams was fired under the Jim Wetherington administration, but his replacement, James Worsley, was hired by the current administration. Worsley left the CCG recently to take a job in Virginia and was replaced by former Deputy Director Holli Browder.

Prior to that, Inspections and Codes Director Greg Coates, who was hired by this administration after the departure of Bill Duck, was subsequently dismissed for lack of sufficient credentials and replaced by John Hudgison.

Horner, who was hired to replace former Civic Center Director Dale Hester, has been chosen to take over Uptown Columbus Inc. and the Uptown Business Improvement District from Richard Bishop, who is retiring.

The year 2011, Tomlinson’s first year in office, has been the busiest for replacing directors so far. That year, Public Works Director Gary Stickles retired and was replaced by current Director Pat Biegler; Muscogee County Prison Warden Bill Adamson retired and was replaced by current Warden Dwight Hamrick; Hester left the Civic Center and was replaced by Horner; Amy Carbajal was hired to replace Joe Riddle as community reinvestment director.

The administration also hired Worsley in 2011 to replace Adams, who had been fired under Mayor Jim Wetherington following a scandal involving an all-star basketball program. Adams and two others ended up with felony convictions from the scandal, but served no prison time.

The next year, 2012, Duck left Inspections and Codes and was replaced by Coates.

In 2013, Human Resources Director Tom Barron retired and was replaced by his deputy director, Reather Hollowell.

In 2014, Information Technology Director Charles Tate retired and was replaced by Forrest Toelle.

After no departures in 2015, things picked up again this year.

Rosa Evans was promoted to replace Saundra Hunter, who retired as director of Metra, the city’s public transit department.

At the same time, Laura Johnson was hired as the new community reinvestment director. She had been serving as community reinvestment manager after the position was downgraded temporarily before being restored to director level this year.

This is also the year the city hired Angelica Alexander to replace Pam Hodge as finance director after Hodge was promoted to deputy city manager.

Hudgison was also hired this year to replace Coates.

In summary, of the 13 director level hires under Tomlinson, six have been made from outside the CCG and seven from within. Biegler, Worsley, Horner, Carbajal, Hamrick and Toelle were hired from outside the CCG. Coates, Hollowell, Evans, Johnson, Browder, Alexander and Hudgison were hired from within.

Seven of those 13 were women: Biegler, Hollowell, Browder, Evans, Alexander, Carbajal and Johnson. And six were men: Hamrick, Horner, Coates, Johnson, Worsley and Toelle.