Fort Oglethorpe hires city manager, police chief

Fort Oglethorpe hires city manager, police chief

February 15th, 2017 by Tyler Jett in Breaking News

After months of searching, Fort Oglethorpe's elected leaders hired a city manager this week.

During a meeting Monday, the city council voted to bring Jennifer Payne-Simpkins on board. Payne-Simpkins replaces Ron Goulart, whom Gov. Nathan Deal appointed to be Catoosa County's state court judge in August.

Payne-Simpkins, who did not returns calls for comment today, is the fiscal management and solid waste division director for Gwinnett County, where she has worked for more than six years. Before that, she worked for the city of Savannah for four years.

Mike Helton

Mike Helton

The city council also hired a police chief in Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Detective Mike Helton. He replaces David Eubanks, who left the city on medical leave last summer and officially left the department at the beginning of the year.

Helton has rotated between policing and administration for the last two decades. He was the captain of the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office detectives division, then he spent seven years as a magistrate court judge, then he spent eight years as the Catoosa County manager.

He left that job in 2015 to become a sheriff's office detective again, specializing in analyzing crime trends and trying to figure out the smartest strategies for combatting crimes.

"He's got plenty of experience," Mayor Earl Gray said. "It was a good pick. Plus, he'd been involved in the government end of it. We felt like we were fortunate."

Helton said he wants to meet with Payne-Simpkins, the city council and the city's police officers before deciding how to tweak the operation.

"They seem to run a good department over there," he said. "They're very visible. They do a lot of activity. They're always busy."

Payne-Simpkins, meanwhile, will take over a much smaller operation when she joins the city. While Gwinnett County's population is about 900,000, Fort Oglethorpe's is about 9,000.

According to her resume, Payne-Simpkins also is currently responsible for a $62 million budget. In Fort Oglethorpe, the most recent budget was $9 million.

Payne-Simpkins was one of 42 applicants for the city manager job. Gray said the city council needed six months to pick Goulart's replacement because of all the choices to pick from.

"We didn't want to get into a hurry," he said.

Payne-Simpkins will make $80,000 a year and starts Tuesday. Helton, meanwhile, will make $60,000 a year and starts Feb. 27.