• THE DECATUR City Council has approved the appointment of Wendy Morthland, the City of Decatur’s Corporation Counsel, and head of the legal department, to be the interim city manager until the new city manager, Scot Wrighton, starts work on March 19th. The choice is an obvious one. Usually, the “interim city manager” position is filled by a member of the senior staff during the search to find a new city manager. The senior staff member usually becomes a candidate for the permanent city manager position. Tyus did not apply for the position. Since a new city manager has been hired, and Morthland will serve from Feb. 7 until March 19, it just makes sense to appoint her for the five weeks between Tyus leaving and Wrighton starting the job in Decatur. Morthland has been with the city for a long time and has served in her present legal position for many years, During the years when I was mayor I worked with her, found her to have an exceptional legal mind and developed a high level of respect for her. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, the city cannot legally operate without the city manager’s position filled by someone, even on an interim basis. Morthland is the perfect choice to keep the city moving ahead before the arrival of the new city manager.
• IT IS TIME to say “farewell” and “best wishes” to Decatur Interim City Manager Billy Tyus who is leaving Decatur to join Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason in being the deputy city manager, as he was in Decatur before Gleason accepted the position in Bloomington last summer. I’ve known Billy since he was a reporter at the Herald & Review and also worked with him during the years I served as mayor. I’ve written this before, and reaffirm it in today’s column, that Billy is absolutely one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Bloomington’s gain is definitely Decatur’s loss — and the same is true of Tim Gleason’s move to Bloomington.
I find it interesting that city managers in Decatur over the past 15-20 years aren’t seen in the same positive light by some in our community as they are in the communities where they go after leaving our city for similar positions. An article in the Bloomington newspaper a few weeks ago was extremely positive about the job Gleason is doing there to move the city forward. Gleason was selected from a group of applicants in a nationwide search for Bloomington’s City Manager — and the same was true when he was hired in Decatur.
The same was true of Tyus and former Decatur City Manager Ryan McCrady, who remains in Decatur as head of the Economic Development Corporation. From what a little bird who was inside the process when McCrady was selected told me McCrady was “head and shoulders” above the other applicants and an obvious choice. I’m pleased that he remains in Decatur with the EDC and doing important work that is helping to make the future of our city brighter.
• FORMER Decatur City Manager Steve Garman was a top choice for city manager in the southern city where he applied after retiring from the Decatur position. He was hired and praised for his financial expertise and ability to do those things that helped the city — leading all the candidates who applied for the position. I’m not sure if, overall, this community fully appreciates the role of the city manager and how his (or her) qualifications impact on moving us forward. City Managers in Decatur’s past have received a lot of criticism, but not much praise — even though they are highly respected in circles who know anything about city government and economic development.