SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Hostess City will announce finalists in its city manager search within 10 days, Mayor Van Johnson said.
“We are tentatively planning to invite these finalists to Savannah towards the end of this month,” Johnson said. Savannah has been searching for a city manager since last year.
Johnson said he’s been more impressed with the city’s new objective approach in determining finalists. Although the pool of finalists is smaller than he likes, he says it’s a “very solid” group of candidates.
Johnson also said he wants the newest city manager to help Savannah become a more equitable and inclusive city.
“Our city has been without leadership for quite some time,” Johnson said. “I’m interested in someone who’s able to help the city of Savannah transform.”
The mayor says the city needs stable leadership but did give a shout-out to interim city managers Pat Monahan and Michael Brown.
“We’ve been able to survive and survive some of our most difficult times,” said Johnson. “Maybe we needed that experience.”
Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter says while all city agencies have remained on task, anyone in a temporary position is limited in the internal changes they can make.
“Of course, we are waiting for that position to be filled permanently,” said Minter. “An interim city manager, I’m sure, probably only feels comfortable making decisions up to a certain point.”
Johnson says there was a drastic drop in applicants this time around. WSAV News 3 is told the North Carolina-based search firm chalked it up to the pandemic and tension among city council members.
“I really hope that we can get consensus about the top candidate out the gate and support their success for our city,” said District 4 Alderman Nick Palumbo.
In September of 2020, Johson announced and later hosted three finalists for the job, all ranging in experience.
In the end, the council couldn’t agree on one. All three refused to step into the position with only a 5 to 4 vote.
“It was a heartbreaker out there,” said Palumbo, “to see a great candidate walk away from the city when they were ready to make the commitment.
“I think they would have made a great fit, but we have some really great candidates that are lined up this time,” he added.
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Meanwhile, Savannah is slowly getting back to business.
The latest data shows 33% of all residents are fully vaccinated, and 38% have received at least one dose. Tuesday, Johnson repeated his call for more residents to get inoculated to return to a new normal.
“Two out of three Savannhians, Chatham Countians, are not vaccinated, and so, therefore, we are still as a community at risk,” Johnson said.
The mayor also said he does not regret lifting the city’s mask mandate, but he has been met with mixed reactions from businesses, officials and community leaders. Some expressed support for the lift, while others were disappointed in his decision, Johnson said.
As long as the community transmission index remains static at moderately high, the mayor says he has no regrets.
“If we are getting back in the transmission index in the high 90s, we’ll start getting very concerned with that,” Johnson said. “As of right now, we’re okay, but again, that changes week to week.”