Commissioners debate effectiveness of position combining city manager and city engineer roles

A photo of City Manager and Engineer Wayon Hines hangs in City Hall. Comissioners discussed Hines' position during a meeting and workshop
this month. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Heath)
A photo of City Manager and Engineer Wayon Hines hangs in City Hall. Comissioners discussed Hines' position during a meeting and workshop this month. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Heath)

At a recent Collegedale Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Tonya Sadler proposed a discussion regarding whether or not Wayon Hines’ combined role of city manager and city engineer is too much for one person to hold.

“When you have someone doing two full-time jobs, you get part-time effort in both positions,” Sadler said at the Oct. 16 meeting. “I’d like for us at the workshop to discuss splitting up the city manager/city engineer position and what that would look like.”

Sadler’s presentation of this idea sparked a conversation regarding the “typical practices” of a city manager and engineer as well as the realistic and longstanding expectations of this role within City Hall. 

City Manager Duties

Hines’ responsibilities as city manager include, but are not limited to, ensuring that laws and ordinances are enforced as well as serving disciplinary and management action to all department heads and employees, according to City Charter Section 6-21-108. Hines is also responsible for supervising the work of the chief of police, the city attorney, the treasurer and all other departments and divisions that may be created by the Board of Commissioners. He must attend all commission meetings and has the right to be a part of discussion but cannot vote in the same way that the commissioners do.

Hines has served the city as the city engineer since 2016 and was appointed as interim city manager in March 2021, according to the Collegedale City website. His role became permanent in May after the early retirement and fallout of former city manager Ted Rodgers, according to an article from WDEF News 12.

Opposing Views

At the meeting, Sadler said she believes the commissioners are “getting left out of some conversations” due to Hines potentially not having enough time to communicate with them as much as she expects. For example, she said, she was unaware of a community meeting until it was announced online to the general public as well as conversations with the election commission that she said the Board of Commissioners was not briefed on.

“I don’t understand what separating positions has to do with feeling left out of a planning conversation,” Hines responded at the meeting. 

When Vice Mayor Tim Johnson asked whether Hines is “able and capable of doing what we need him to do as a full-time city engineer,” Hines said the City of Collegedale does not currently have the resources to do in-house design, and it has historically been common practice for certain city projects to be contracted out.

Hines said the expense of separating the city manager and engineer positions and hiring another person would be more expensive on an annual basis, and he doesn’t think it is the best value option for the city. As city engineer, Hines had an annual salary of $97,323, which increased to $132,488 when he took on the additional role as city manager, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Former city manager Ted Rogers had a starting annual salary of $72,000, which increased to $128,315 by the time of his retirement in 2021.

Commissioner Debbie Baker came to Hines’ defense, stating that he is strong in both roles. She said Hines not only has skills in engineering, but also the other skills required for the manager position that he has acquired over the years he has worked for  the city. 

“You are well educated in running the city,” said Baker. “And I actually think you’ve done a fabulous job at it. … I feel an undercurrent here that we are looking at possibly wanting to see about replacing you as city manager. … I wholeheartedly disagree with that.”

Both Baker and Johnson expressed their appreciation for Hines’ current role, and both said if Hines needed support in his position, he should communicate that fact. Mayor Marty  Lloyd said he thinks Hines has done an “excellent job,” and mayors of other municipalities in Hamilton County have said Collegedale is fortunate to have Hines as city manager. However, Johnson said he also agrees with Sadler that there is a need for more communication.

Recent City Progress

The conversation regarding the separation of Hines’ two positions continued at a workshop meeting on Oct. 23, where Hines spent over 15 minutes listing the many projects, changes and progress that have been made since he became city manager in 2021.  

For example, the city has worked to improve transparency through social media, the Collegedale Police Department’s public information officer program and the Collegedale website, Hines said. He also mentioned the incorporation of Sadler’s idea to include expanded agendas in commission meeting minutes and send overview emails to commissioners every Friday. Hines said he reorganized the Human Resources office, started emailing payroll stubs, secured the library building and helped the city move the copy room in City Hall to create an assistant chief of police’s office. Hines has maintained an open-door policy in his office.

Hines added that there has been a 50% decrease in liability and workers’ compensation claims in the last three years. The city has also seen a decrease in employee medical and supplemental insurance costs for the past two years, he said. City administrators made two big employee manual revisions and “big strides trying to bring our workforce pay up to market,” he explained further. For example, the city has expanded recruiting efforts while simultaneously cutting costs. 

Collegedale has also expanded the airport, with a recent reception of a $1.3 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, according to Hines. Upgrades within City Hall and facilities maintenance include systems within the buildings that drive down utility costs. The Parks and Recreation Department developments include new qualifications of staff and the opening of the Little Debbie Park. Since 2021, the number of programs has doubled to 300, and program participation has more than doubled, with about 5,000 people participating out of a community population of 12,300 people, Hines said. He concluded with additional details regarding what’s been done since 2021 in the police department as well as Public Works.

“Thank you for listing that,” said Sadler. “Seriously, that’s a lot of stuff going on every day in Collegedale. …We are making leaps and bounds from where we were a few years ago.”

Closing Statements

Sadler said she believes the commission unintentionally put a city employee in an impossible situation by hiring Hines as city manager and city engineer, and she is starting to see some strain and wear from this. That’s why she feels like it’s time to redirect. She added that in 2019, the commission first began discussing the possibility of  hiring a staff engineer to reduce the amount of money spent on designing and completing  projects all in-house.

“As you all know we have a staff engineer, but we’ve been told he doesn’t do design,” said Sadler. “And then there have been instances where you don’t have time to do design, so if both of you can’t do design, we’re not realizing those savings. We’ve ended up spending more, so that’s where I’m coming from asking for this conversation.”

Commissioner Katie Lamb said since she has been on the commission, the city has always hired outside engineers, and there was always work the past engineer was unable to do because of limited time or capability. Therefore, she said, it is not unusual for the city to go outside of its own pool of employees to get expertise in certain areas. 

In response to Sadler’s concern that Hines’ combined role is too much for one person, Lamb said Hines has shown her he is capable of performing both jobs. She continued, stating that she did not understand what the issue with Hines’ role was, as she thinks there is better communication between the city administration and commission now than in her past years in leadership. Hines has improved the relationship between the commission and city manager, Lamb said. 

“I’m satisfied with what you’re doing and how you’re handling things,” Lamb said. “And I think that you’ve accomplished a lot, and I just want to say, ‘I’m pleased with what you are doing.’”

Lloyd said he sees no reason for a change, as he has spoken to every commissioner at different times, and they all say they are happy, whether it is with Hines’ performance, the way he is running the city or with the way that he treats them. Near the end of the workshop, Johnson once again expressed his support, stating he gives Hines an “A plus” for his role as manager, while adding that he would like to see more communication with the commission. Baker said commissioners need to be able to voice their opinions, clear the air and move forward.

Hines closed the discussion by asking the commission to tell him about any opportunities for improvement.

“If they’re actionable, I will absolutely do it,” he said. “Just let me know.”

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