A search that began in March ended Monday night when the Commerce City Council voted to hire Peter J. Pyrzenski as its fourth city manager. The vote was unanimous.
Mayor Clark Hill recounted the “long and arduous process. This council has been dedicated since a retreat I called in March to find a new city manager,” he said. “… to help us continue the momentum we have to put the city in a financial position in the future so we don’t have to overburden our citizens.”
He told a handful of people in the Commerce Civic Center that the council was “very deliberate” as it went through the process of screening applications from as far away as Oregon.
“It’s interesting,” Hill said, “that our guy ended up being a guy transplanted from Connecticut to South Georgia 20 years ago.” Hill added that “Pete has a wealth of knowledge” from “public and private business experience. He brings a kind of different skill set to us and we’re kind of excited.”
Hill and the council also heaped praise on interim city manager Tom Berry, who managed city operations since June 30 when Clarence Bryant retired and who led the city through the process of finding Bryant’s successor.
“Tom Berry has been a leader and treated us just like he was going to be a permanent city manager,” Hill said, also indicating that more than once the council asked Berry to fill the job permanently. “Tom did a great job for us. He came highly recommended from other places he served and did some great things for us.”
Mayor pro tem Keith Burchett agreed: “If we’d paid Tom what he was actually worth, we’d have to re-do our budget,” he said. “He’s been a godsend to us.”
“I will say the same,” said councilman Steve Perry. “It’s been a pleasure to see you in action, and you’ve given great service to the city.”
The vote Monday night authorizes Hill to execute the employment contract, pending review by city attorney John Stell.
Pyrzenski, 46, lives in Waycross, but as of Tuesday morning was already on the job at City Hall.
“The timing worked out perfectly as far as the schedule and time frame of my previous job,” he said Tuesday morning.
Pyrzenski has a varied background.
Most recently, he was general manager of Republic Services, a waste management company for whom he managed an operation that includes three hauling companies, three transfer stations and has 140 full-time employees and 38 municipal customers, with a budget of $45 million.
From February 2005 to May 2010, Pyrzenski was city manager in Waycross, where he presided over a General Fund budget of $20.8 million, capital improvement project fund of $35 million and four enterprise (utility) funds that contributed $10 million toward the budget.
During his tenure there, Pyrzenski moved the bottom line from a $1.2 million deficit to a $320,000 fund balance. He presented balanced budgets for four consecutive years — without a rate or tax increase.
Prior to that, Pyrzenski worked for almost a year with Pinnacle Prime Contractors before leaving to become a city manager, and from October 1996 to May 2004 he was public works director for Valdosta. His career includes stints as commercial operations manager for Southern Sanitation, Pompano Beach, FL, and a number of positions with Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) — another waste management firm — in Columbia, SC.
Pyrzenski attended Dean Junior College in Franklin, MA, got his bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of North Florida, Jacksonville, and earned his master’s degree in public administration in 2002 from Valdosta State College. He served three years in the U.S. Navy and 10 years in the U.S. Army Reserves. He has served on boards of directors for the YMCA in Waycross, Okefenokee Technical College and Waycross College Planning Council.