Mayor Johnson announces city manager finalists, discusses violence on Savannah’s west side

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Mayor Van Johnson held his weekly press conference Tuesday morning following a busy holiday weekend in Savannah.

Johnson opened the press conference advising that he was just informed about a homicide in the Frazier housing development area.

The mayor said the homicide is one of many incidents that has happened in the area. He said he is calling a meeting with City officials to discuss what can be done to help the community in relation to violence.

“In a community that allows guns everywhere, in a state that allows guns everywhere, there’s some things we just cannot do,” Johnson said. “However, I think the conversation needs to be had about finding ways to protect those who live in that area.”

Johnson then briefly discussed Labor Day. Savannah’s streets were busy all weekend and into Monday.

The mayor said initial impressions of the holiday weekend are mixed. He said some people did a great job at social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands, while others did not.

Johnson then reminded the public that Tuesday is the last day businesses can apply for the second round of CARES funding. Applications are open until 5 p.m.

This time around, funds will be distributed more intentionally, the mayor said. Last week, Johnson broke down target populations funds are set aside for, including minority-owned businesses and businesses with five or fewer employees.

The deadline for assistance through the United Way has been extended, Johnson said. The City now has through Dec. 31 to distribute $3.3 million to those who are past due on mortgage, rent and utility bills due to loss of income caused by COVID-19.

For more information, call 211 Monday through Friday.

Johnson also reminded the community about completing the 2020 Census, which must be complete by the end of the month.

Johnson then gave an update on the search for a new city manager. Over 100 applicants have now been narrowed down to three finalists. Read about each candidate, below.

Caluha Barnes

Caluha Barnes

Caluha Barnes has served as deputy city manager of Modesto, California since January 2019. She is responsible for the city’s internal services, including budget, finance, human resources, information technology, innovation and performance management, which manages special projects like the city’s strategic planning initiative and homelessness. The City of Modesto serves a population of 215,000.

She previously worked as the community engagement director for the City of Santa Rosa, Calif. for two years and as the director of the Department of Health Services and as an administrative analyst in Sonoma County for six years.

She is a native Georgian who previously worked for the Georgia Secretary of State as the director of administration and as a manager with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). She earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma and her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University.

Odie Donald, II

Odie Donald, II

Odie Donald, II, has served as city manager of South Fulton, Georgia since March 2018. The City of South Fulton, created in May 2017, ranks as Georgia’s fifth-largest municipality, serving a population of 100,000. The city has 600 employees, a $69 million operating budget and a $40 million capital budget. South Fulton’s 11 departments include police, fire, community development, municipal courts, human resources, finance, public works, economic development, parks and recreation and IT.

Donald previously served as the director of the Department of Employment Services for the District of Columbia and as executive director of the DC Workforce Investment Council. He also worked for the Georgia Department of Economic Development as the Workforce Services director and served as executive director of Coastal Workforce Services in Savannah from July 2013 to March 2015.

He received his Master of Business Administration and his bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University

John Pombier

John Pombier

John Pombier has served as assistant city manager of Mesa, Arizona since January 2011. The city serves a population of 510,000.

He is responsible for $300 million in operational budgets and more than 2,200 employees in police, fire, court, environmental management, innovation and technology, and human resources.

An attorney by education, he is a former city prosecutor and served as deputy counsel to the Arizona Governor’s Office. He graduated from Arizona State University School of Law and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan School of Business.

“We look forward to hiring someone Savannahians can be proud of for years to come,” Johnson said.

Johnson has assured that the process of hiring a new City Manager will be public. On Sept. 18 and 19, the three finalists will be in town to answer questions from a community panel. Johnson said more information will be released soon.

The mayor ended his prepared remarks asking Savannah to take a moment this week to honor and remember victims of the 9/11 attacks.

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