The Winder City Council will begin interviewing the three finalists for the vacant city administrator position next week and a final council decision could be made as soon as May 27, city officials said Tuesday, May 12.
The council will interview Eric J. Taylor of Atlanta on May 20, James R. “Jay” Johnson of Gulf Shores, Ala. on May 22 and Mandi L. Cody, the current interim administrator for the City of Washington, on May 27.
Each of the interviews will take place in closed session at 2 p.m. at the Winder Community Center.
The first finalist slated for an interview, Taylor, has 18 years of city government experience and was most recently senior assistant manager for the City of Johns Creek from 2015 to 2019. He oversaw a $24 million renovation and expansion of the city hall complex there, according to his resume obtained by The Barrow News-Journal.
Prior to his time with Johns Creek, Taylor was city administrator for Smyrna from 2009-2014 and assistant city administrator there for three years prior to that. He has also been finance officer for the City of Avondale Estates and has worked for the cities of Decatur and Marietta.
Taylor earned a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in management and finance from Georgia State University in 2003 and holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Earlham College in Indiana (1992).
Johnson would bring more than 40 years of local government experience to Winder and has held the top administrative post in several communities, including a brief stint in Toccoa in 2010.
He most recently was city manager in Anniston, Ala. from 2018 to 2019. He resigned last June amid tension with some city council members, according to local media reports, though a specific reason for his departure wasn’t made clear.
Johnson has also been city administrator or manager of Shelbyville, Tenn. (2011-2017), Franklin, Tenn. (1993-2008), Ponca City, Okla. (1988-1993), Collierville, Tenn. (1981-1988) and Mount Pleasant, Tenn. (1979-1981). He began his career in 1976 as the budget director and assistant to the city manager in Largo, Fla.
Johnson is also reported to have left his posts in Toccoa and Franklin due to differences with those cities’ councils.
Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Southern Illinois University (1974).
Cody, who has been interim administrator in Washington since December, was a finalist earlier this year for the top administrative post in Georgetown County, S.C. and was a finalist for county administrator in Crisp County last fall.
Cody served as city manager of Metter from 2016 to 2019 and stepped down last summer following a months-long negotiation of a service-delivery agreement with Candler County and differences between her and council members, according to media reports. The mayor of Metter described Cody’s departure as an amicable parting of ways and is listed among her references on her resume.
Cody previously served as director of planning and economic development for the City of Statesboro from 2011-2016 and was a planner for the city for two years before that.
She was administrator for the Town of Register in Bulloch County from 2007-2009 and practiced law for three years prior to her time in local government.
Cody graduated from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in 2001 and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Georgia Southern University (1998).
FILLING A VACANT POST
Winder’s administrator position has been vacant since mid-February, following Donald Toms’ resignation. Toms, who had been with the city since 2010, informed the mayor and council Feb. 5 that he was stepping down, the day after the council met in closed session to discuss “personnel” matters. It has not been publicly revealed what the council discussed in that meeting, but Toms said at the time he had decided to explore other career opportunities.
The city began advertising the position in late February, and Mayor David Maynard told the council a month later that 13 people had applied.
A search committee consisting of Maynard and councilmen Sonny Morris and Chris Akins was tasked with vetting the applicants and whittling down the list to a set of finalists to be interviewed by the full council. Maynard said six candidates were interviewed by phone. The committee then narrowed the list to three and conducted an additional phone interview with them, allowing city department heads to ask questions as well, Maynard said.
Maynard said each of the candidates would have an informal meet-and-greet session with the council the night before their formal interviews. He said he doesn’t necessarily anticipate a hire will be made May 27, but the city, which notified the newspaper of the interviews Tuesday, must give at least 14 days’ public notice before making a decision.