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County may add official
Finalist named for deputy manager
Tim Merritt
Tim Merritt - photo by Submitted
Forsyth County could soon fill a long empty position.

Tim Merritt, a former assistant city manager in Gainesville, has been named the sole finalist for deputy county manager.

No one has filled the position since September 2008, when Doug Derrer was promoted to interim county manager to replace Rhonda Poston-O’Connor, who was fired.

Derrer became county manager in March 2009.

The salary range for the deputy county manager is between about $89,000 and $139,000, county spokeswoman Jodi Gardner said. It is a non-civil service position.

The county is required to give a two-week notice before the commission can approve the hire.

Gardner said the position was posted in April and December 2009, drawing 235 applications.

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said the county has been wanting to fill the post since it was vacated.

“Because of the budget issues, it’d been put off,” he said. “One of the reasons it’s going late into this year is because they were doing some cost savings.”

Derrer is in charge of the hiring process. He agreed with the commission to hold off adding the position until the second quarter in 2010, said Laughinghouse, adding that it is accounted for in this year’s budget.

With the next budget cycle coming up, the county manager could use someone else to share the workload, Laughinghouse said.

“Doug’s getting worn out, literally,” he said. “He’s been surviving for close to a year and a half now. He needs the help. He deserves the help, and I think the board is willing to let him go ahead and get that help.”

The county manager oversees all the operations of the county, working with senior management and reporting to the commission.

The deputy county manager works under the county manager, handling a portion of those day-to-day duties and coordinating economic and tourism development.

Derrer said filling the position will “allow for enhanced focus on a number of projects and programs.”

“The decision to move forward with filling this position was certainly not one that was taken lightly,” he said. “But it is a position critical to the county government operations and one that needed to be filled.”

Like Derrer, Merritt has many years of experience in a neighboring local government.

Derrer spent 26 years with Hall County, joining Forsyth about a month after retiring from Hall in early 2008.

Merritt worked nearly 22 years with the city of Gainesville, the last seven as assistant city manager, before retiring in 2007 to look for “new challenges.”

He’s since been working for a business coordinating acquisitions and easements for properties, as well as doing some real estate work on the side.

When he saw the Forsyth County job listing several months ago, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I realized that there was a part of my personality that I was beginning to miss and that was the need to work with people to help people, to try to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

“I feel the need to work with people, to help people, to be a public servant.”

Merritt, who said he has worked with Derrer on a few projects over the years, is looking forward to joining a “professional staff” in a “growing, progressing community.”

He and his wife, Martha, live in northern Hall County with their three children, ages 17, 12 and 10.