May 9, 2008

Franklin is looking for a few new leaders

Franklin runs despite string of open jobs
The Tennessean • May 7, 2008

FRANKLIN — For months, the buzzword at Franklin City Hall was "turnover," as a succession of long-term staffers resigned and left. Now the word might be "vacancy."
Key positions in Franklin are open and will remain unfilled until a new city administrator can be chosen. Meanwhile, top jobs such as deputy assistant administrator will likely be cut altogether to save money and reduce Franklin's bureaucracy.
Top Franklin leaders say the public won't be able to tell a difference in how the city's run. But they caution they don't want to see the arrangement go on indefinitely, though a new city administrator won't likely be named for months.
"Is this the pace we all want to maintain for ourselves for the next four years? I would say no," Mayor John Schroer said.
Schroer's election in October coincided with numerous resignations and vacancies throughout the city. The latest resignation comes from Planning Director Jaime Groce, who announced recently he would be leaving the city when his family relocates to Memphis this summer.
The losses are being covered by city staffers such as Russ Truell, who was promoted from assistant city administrator to interim city administrator after longtime City Administrator Jay Johnson resigned earlier this year.
"As with any team, when a key player is injured, the remaining players step up and take up the slack," Truell said. "However, too many vacancies will eventually wear down the staff if left unfilled on a sustained basis."
The vacancies may mean more work for city staffers now, but Schroer sees the openings as a lure for candidates interested in being hired as the next city administrator.
"They will be able to build his or her own team," Schroer said. "I think that will be a carrot to somebody who wants to come in and help this city move on to its future."
Search firm hired firstThe selection of a city administrator won't come until much later this year. The first step will be hiring an executive recruiting firm to sort through potential candidates for the job.
Schroer said aldermen will likely vote on a firm during their regular May meeting. The apparent favorite among aldermen is Norcross, Ga.-based Slavin Management Consultants, which Schroer said would be paid about $20,000 for a search that includes background checks, among other things.
Whether a new city administrator has the same framework of managers and directors in place remains another matter.
Truell said he likely will recommend eliminating the deputy assistant city administrator position, which was filled by Randy Wetmore.
Wetmore, who left along with Johnson earlier this year, drew a $126,523 annual salary.
"We always look for areas to eliminate top staff positions, wherever possible," Truell said. "I suspect that I will recommend that position for elimination."
Other potential cuts include the elimination of the assistant city engineer position. Truell said his full list of recommendations will be delivered to aldermen for a vote with the city's 2008-09 budget in a few weeks' time.
If there's been a drop-off in service, architect Matt Taylor says he hasn't seen it. Taylor, who helped design the city's new police headquarters being built on Columbia Avenue, has seen continuity despite the changes.
"They've done a really good job of moving things forward as smoothly as possible," Taylor said. "Somebody's been there to step up and assume the responsibility that makes the city business keep moving."

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