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In this 2017 staff file photo, Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins speaks at the Catoosa County Colonnade in Ringgold, Ga. / Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith

Citing family and another job offer, Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins announced her resignation Tuesday, according to Mayor Earl Gray.

"She has done a fabulous job," said Gray. "She's been a great asset to our city, but when it's a personal family decision, that matters, too."

She will leave her post on Dec. 1, Gray said.

Payne-Simpkins was not immediately available for comment on her decision to resign. She privately submitted her resignation during an executive session of the Fort Oglethorpe City Council meeting on Nov. 11.

The mayor said there are several internal employees who can step up to her post in the interim, but as of Tuesday night, there were no official plans in place. Gray added that since the 2020 budget was passed at the council's last meeting, Payne-Simpkins wouldn't be leaving any large projects unfinished.

some text In this 2017 staff file photo, Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Earl Gray speaks during a REACH scholarship ceremony at Lakeview Middle School in Rossville, Georgia. / Staff photo by Erin O. Smith

"It took us six months to make our last decision," Gray said in reference to Payne-Simpkins' hiring. "We'll take as long as we need as long as we get it right."

Selected for her position with the city in February 2017, Payne-Simpkins replaced Ron Goulart, whom then-Gov. Nathan Deal appointed as Catoosa County's state court judge in August 2016. Prior to taking on the city manager role, she was the fiscal management and solid waste division director in Gwinnett County, Georgia, for more than six years, and worked for the city of Savannah for four years before that.

During her tenure with Fort Oglethorpe, Payne-Simpkins established a Parks and Recreation Department within the city, helped fund-raise for the city's first dog park, and facilitated talks for the county to absorb the city's fire department. The merger will save the city nearly $1 million in 2020 while effectively laying off 45 part-time and volunteer firefighters.

This May, former Catoosa County 911 Director Dennis Thayer claimed he was fired from his position because he refused to hire Payne-Simpkins' husband for a job as his deputy director. Catoosa County Commission Chair Steven Henry investigated the claim and reported during Thayer's termination hearing that he did not find other county employees who would back up Thayer's claim.

Contact Sabrina Bodon at 423-757-6423 or sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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