Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss celebrates her 35th year with the city this month, including the last 25 as city manager. Two weeks ago she announced her resignation, effective Dec. 31. Staff photo

Decatur set to select city manager search firm

Decatur has wasted no time in taking preliminary steps towards replacing longtime City Manager Peggy Merriss, who announced her resignation on July 16. The city commission will likely approve a search firm at its regular meeting 7:30 p.m. August 6 at the City Commission Meeting Room, 509 North McDonough St.

Mayor Patti Garrett said Thursday she didn’t want to confirm the finalist until the meeting’s agenda is posted online, probably late Friday afternoon.

Garrett reiterated her hope the new manager starts work Jan. 1, 2019. Merriss’ final day is New Year’s Eve.

Garrett also said the firm will conduct a nationwide search, although adding, “We may [also] have an internal candidate.”

The city has a number of staffers with over 10 years experience, and at least six with 20 years or more.

Merriss has been Decatur’s city manager for 25 years—longest tenure since the city converted to the council-management form of government in 1924—but she celebrates her 35th year overall this month. Decatur has had only two city managers since 1972.

“Needless to say the bar is pretty high,” Garrett said. “[The new manager will replace] someone who is recognized [nationally] in this position, someone who is so completely competent in every facet. But then again, we don’t want someone coming into a dysfunctional situation.”

Decatur begins its search just as neighboring city Avondale Estates announced this week that former Talladega head Patrick Bryant is the sole finalist for city manager. Also this week Clarkston announced the retirement of Keith Barker, who began in 2011 as that city’s first-ever manager.

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