John McDonough, Sandy Springs' first city manger, might be leaving to Greenville, South Carolina, where he has been announced as a finalist for a position.
Photo: Bob Andres/AJC
Photo: Bob Andres/AJC

Sandy Springs’ first and only city manager is leaving 

The only city manager Sandy Springs has ever known is leaving for another city.

John McDonough was appointed Monday night as the new city manager of Greenville, South Carolina. Part of his reason for leaving, he said, is that he has family there.

News broke earlier this month that he was one of three finalists for the position. McDonough told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday night that his last day with Sandy Springs will be Aug. 2. 

“We are very disappointed to lose John, the only city manager the city has had,” said Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul. “He was very upfront about his interest in the Greenville position due to family connections in the area. We wish him well going forward.”

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McDonough said he will work with Paul to hire an executive search firm to help find a new person to manage the city of more than 100,000 residents.

“It is rare to have the opportunity to start up a new city, and as I look back at my time as the city’s first city manager, we have accomplished a great deal in our short 13 years,” McDonough said.

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He said he was happy to leave the city with parks, a 911 call center and the $229 million City Springs government and arts complex.

Since Sandy Springs incorporated about 13 years ago, McDonough has run the day-to-day operations of the city. This year, he was handling a budget of $400 million, according to the city website.

The Sandy Springs Performing Art Center, a part of City Springs, a $229 million arts-and-government complex represents the growing city’s downtown. (HYOSUB SHIN /

He leaves just as Sandy Springs radically changes the way it does business. The city is moving from a privatism model of contracting out nearly all daily government functions to hiring hundreds of people to bring them in-house.

Sandy Springs’ creation in 2005 triggered the metro-wide cityhood movement, and privatism was a foundational characteristic of what leaders said made the city unique. Other new cities followed suit, but most have moved away from that way of running their governments.

MORE | Sandy Springs, first in cityhood, changes how it does business

The city said in McDonough’s online bio that he “is recognized as a leading authority on the implementation of public/private partnerships and has presented nationally and internationally on the concept and benefits to local governments.”

According to a December 2005 story in the AJC, McDonough was hired at an annual salary of $160,000 after being the city manager of Beaufort, South Carolina.

A retired Marine Corps. colonel, McDonough said his Sandy Springs salary this year was $249,750.

His annual base salary in Greenville will be $260,000, according to public records available online through the Greenville City Council.

When asked if he had anything to say to the city he helped build, McDonough said: ”Sandy Springs is such a strong, thriving community because of the involvement of its residents. They have been active and supportive, and have contributed a great deal to our strong growth. From the business community, to the non-profits, to the HOA leadership, their participation is a critical factor in the city’s success.”

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