“The decision to move on to something new was really hard,” says Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins who submitted a resignation letter to City Council members during executive session at the Nov. 11 council meeting.

Simpkins’ resignation is effective Dec. 3.

Simpkins says her decision was based on a number of factors, one of them dating several years ago when she had a conversation with the city manager of Lilburn where she will be taking the newly-created position of assistant city manager.

At the time, Simpkins was working with Gwinnett County and made a trip with the county’s project manager to take a look at a new combination city hall/library the city of Lilburn was building with SPLOST funds.

“I met the city manager Bill Johnsa and was so impressed with him,” says Simpkins. “He told me that eventually he planned to retire and was working on a succession plan so he would leave the city well-off.”

Simpkins said she thought how much she would enjoy working with someone with such a mindset. But there was no position for her and she moved on with her life, which brought her to Fort Oglethorpe in 2017.

“Fort Oglethorpe and Catoosa County are so different from other places,” says Simpkins.

“You see people out walking and visiting with neighbors. There’s a real sense of community. No matter where you live on our planet, it’s important to really connect with people and I see that happening here.”

Another thing Simpkins says she has found unique about this area is the way the county, cities and various entities work together. “A lot of places in the state you have counties and cities constantly suing each other. Here, the county, cities, schools, Chamber and others have found a way to work together and get along. It’s been a pleasure to work with all of them.

“There are also a lot of residents within Fort Oglethorpe who genuinely care about the city and have a vision for it and work very hard to improve it,” says Simpkins.

That’s not to say there’s no room for improvement, says Simpkins. There have been problems to overcome, she says, and there still are, but she says she feels confident the City Council is strong enough and focused enough to keep the city moving forward and becoming a better place.

Simpkins says the other reason she has decided to take the position in Lilburn has to do with family. She says she’ll be closer to her sister and her parents and that her husband, who works with a friend in Alpharetta, will now be able to come home every night instead of being gone for a week at a time.

In her resignation letter, Simpkins wrote:

“Dear Mayor, Derek, Craig, Rhonda, Jim, and Paula,

“Please accept this letter as my resignation as the City Manager of the City of Fort Oglethorpe effective December 3, 2019. I am so grateful for your warm welcome to this community, and I am honored by your confidence in me to lead the operations of this organization. Scott [Simpkins’ husband] and I have been a part of our community for nearly three years, and we will miss each and every one of you tremendously.

“We have accomplished a lot together. Thanks to your leadership and support, the organization now has annual performance reviews, pay for performance opportunities, a position control document, and an award-winning operating and capital budget that reflects a six-month annual process of engaging all departments in operational recommendations. Additionally, we enhanced our services by hiring a highly-qualified Building, Planning, and Zoning Director and establishing a new Parks and Recreation Department, among many others.

“This decision has not been easy for Scott and me. We have been offered a great opportunity that is intended to lead to even more opportunities in the near future, and we will be closer to family. Thank you for all that you do. We wish you all the best, and we can’t wait to see the continued prosperity of Fort Oglethorpe each time we come back to visit our lifelong friends.”

Simpkins says her wish and hope for Fort Oglethorpe is this: “Stay the course, lean forward. Keep working to establish the downtown area that everyone has been working toward for so long. Build on the awesome relationship you have with other entities. The success of a city doesn’t rely on one person but on a foundation.”

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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