Former Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson is responding to getting fired by city commissioners Tuesday.
Jackson said it saddens him that the commission chose this route.
“It is sad that two commissioners, who are not going to be here in four months, have basically caused this to happen and the remaining commissioners went along with it,” said Jackson.
He went on to say the two commissioners who led the campaign for his firing lack an understanding of the role of the commission vis-a-vis that of the city manager as set out in the city charter.
“They do not understand that the city commission is a policy body and the city manager is an administrative function,” said Jackson. “Both of them attempted to interfere with decisions I have to make and wanted me to make decisions that would benefit them or their friends and my refusal to acquiesce to their demands has a great deal, I think, to do with their animosity with me.”
When city commissioners unanimously voted to terminate Jackson Tuesday, they did so saying their goal was always to have someone in place for the long term.
Jackson served as either interim or permanent city manager for just over two years and said he planned to stay through at least the end of next year to finish what he started.
“If things had gone the way I thought they would go, sometime during the second quarter of 2014, we would begin looking for somebody,” said Jackson. “This is an important point. At that time, we would have something to sell to a potential new city manager.”
Jackson felt the city accomplished many things during his tenure.
He said chief among them is a sense of stability, leadership, and vision.
” Employee morale is a great deal higher than it was,” said Jackson. “The city of Toccoa had a pretty bad reputation statewide because of all the turnover, all the firing of city managers, and all that went on. With that stability has come improvement in the reputation in the city of Toccoa.”
Jackson also pointed to a firmer financial foundation for the city, three new successful department heads, the renovation of the Schaefer Center, a Capital Improvement Plan for the city, a new and improved budget process, the expansion of the water and gas systems, and a pilot project to convert city vehicles to compressed natural gas, as accomplishments.
Meanwhile, Jackson said his implementation of one accomplishment, a merit based compensation and pay plan, was central to his termination.
He stated that the commission chose to give the entire raise pool budgeted for department heads to reward a single employee who reports to the commission.
Jackson said he did not feel it was right not to reward all of the department heads.
“I wanted to reward my department heads,” said Jackson. “I am lucky to have inherited some excellent department heads. So what I did is I went back and revamped the system to create enough funds to give my excellent department heads the same raise the commission chose to give their employee and that infuriated the commission.”
Moving forward, Jackson said he had more goals, including expanding the compressed natural gas program and get cities in Toccoa’s service area to buy compressed natural gas from the city and use it to fuel vehicles, making the city money that he wanted to use to expand the gas system more and pay down the city’s gas fund debt.
To that end, Jackson said the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia and the city have been negotiating regarding financing construction of a fueling station in the amount of more than $500,000.
He said bringing that to fruition will require vision and leadership.
According to Jackson, political leadership and vision for the future are things that have been lacking from the commissioners during his entire tenure.
“Where do the commissioners want the city to be in five years?” asked Jackson. “That is vision. That is political leadership. In that vacuum, somebody or something moves to fill it. That is what I did. I moved in to fill the vacuum that existed. I should not have had to do that.”
Jackson said he appreciates the city’s employees, adding Toccoa is lucky to have the staff that it does.
In addition, Jackson said Toccoa is a wonderful community and a great place to live.
“Martha and I have become a part of the community,” said Jackson. “We think we have made some good friends and (developed) a genuine affection for the community.”
Jackson said it has been his pleasure to serve the city of Toccoa for the last two years.
“My regret is that I am not going to be able what I started and I think I started a lot of good stuff,” said Jackson.
Jackson said the city has tremendous potential and he hopes the city finds the political leadership it deserves and needs to fulfill its great potential.