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New Augusta administrator looking for his own deputies, spokesperson



AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta Administrator Odie Donald is hiring three new staffers with broad job duties to add to the office.

Donald informed commissioners recently that the city has parted ways with deputy administrators Jarvis Sims and Tony McDonald, and several commissioners said they support the new administrator bringing aboard his own team.

“I replaced almost everyone on my boards because I wanted new people on there. I understand where he’s coming from,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight, who took office this year.

Replacing the two deputy administrators – or any existing top city staffer hired prior to 2020 – carries a financial punch under Augusta’s automatic severance pay policies. They are eligible for up to six months’ salary and benefits, one month per year of service, if they leave for any reason besides being fired for cause. Since 2020, the Augusta Commission has reduced but not eliminated automatic severance pay.

While it didn’t come up in the discussion about the deputies’ resignations, severance pay is pretty much a given and all department managers and other top non-elected officials who have resigned over the last decade or so except a few have received it. “I believe they will too,” Commissioner Dennis Williams, said of Sims and McDonald.

Friday, Donald referred a request for comment about his plans for the office and the severance packages to the city law department.

Former administrator Janice Allen Jackson brought on two new deputies, Ted Rhinehart and Chester Brazzell, after she joined the government in 2014, replacing them in 2018 with McDonald and Sims after Rhinehart resigned and Brazzell died. Sims served as interim administrator for more than a year after Jackson left until Donald began in November.

With their salaries of $146,292 plus benefits and 28 months of service, Sims and McDonald can each expect a payout worth at least $35,000. The administrator’s office has an annual budget of $1.1 million compared to Mayor Hardie Davis’, which is around $510,000.

The job ad for the two deputy positions does not specify a salary and require a bachelor’s degree and seven years’ management experience in a local government. Duties include furthering the “goals and objectives of the mayor and board of commissioners” at the direction of Donald, supervising staff and reviewing work across multiple departments, preparing and monitoring multiple budgets and other tasks.

Donald also plans to hire a public information manager to work at his direction. According to the job ad, for $62,636 to $72,032 the person will interact heavily with the media, including receiving and writing or obtaining responses to media requests, monitoring and reviewing media for accuracy and outcomes, coordinating interviews, press conferences and other “crisis” communication tactics and initiating opinion pieces.

Other duties include ensuring the brand and message of the “county” are consistent, as well as taking photos.

Augusta has a handful of public relations staffers who respond to media requests made to a department and use social media to promote events, while Davis has workers and contractors who promote his vision for the city, in addition to other duties. Jackson was the first to hire a full-time public information officer for her office, Jim Beasley, but Beasley was not replaced after she and he resigned.