Columbia has been looking to replace current city manager Steve Gantt since he announced his intention to retire this June. He made that announcement last June giving the city a year to find the best candidate. So city council drew up some qualifications they felt would be important in the next city manager. "A minimmum of 10 years work experience required as a city or county manager" read the posting on July 2nd of the city's website. And really that isn't much to ask for. It's the state capitol. We don't want someone who has never been a manager to get their first job here! You get your head coach job at a little school after you were an assistant at a big school. Then you come back to the big leagues as a head coach. But 7 weeks later, on August 24th council changed the ad. "8 years of work experience in a city or county leadership position, including but not limited to city manager, assistant city manager". So....we were now accepting people who had never done the job? Yes. Because we had an assistant city manager named Teresa Wilson who some folks were really sweet on, but she didn't meet the qualifications for the job.
No one seems to be able to comment on why the qualifications were changed. Say hi to Columbia Human Resource Director Pamela Benjamin.
That's a screen capture of Pamela when she was telling WIS TV in April that they couldn't cover an employee grievance hearing that was requested by the employee to be open to the public. Wilson ended up canceling that hearing so the media wouldn't cover it. She was hired by Mayor Benjamin in 2011. Now when she is asked how was the decision made to lower the requirements for the city manager job she says "We (council) had several discussions and I talked to some of them specifically. But that was a council decision to change the posting and I was really just kind of facilitating the process". That answer is about as conclusive as duhhhh I dunno. But we do know there were at least 2 of the 7 city council members who were not happy about the changing of the requirements. Both Leona Plaugh and Moe Baddourah said at the Dec 27th meeting where Wilson was being presented as council's choice that the city really needed someone with more experience and there were stronger candidates out there. Mayor Steve Benjamin (is he related to Pamela Benjamin or just her friend?) said at the time he felt like Wilson's "considerable experience in dealing with other governmental entities " gave her the edge. My man Moe (I've never met or even heard of Moe before today I just like how that sounded) said whatever to the dealing with entities crap. "Running a city is not just about building relationships with other entities! It's more to do with managing a city's revenues and expenses". Right on Moe! That doesn't sound a lot more important than how well you make friends.
Even with these new requirements it doesn't appear the bar has been set low enough to squeak Ms Wilson in. Her resume says she was a school teacher in Richland 1 & 2 schools from 2000-2005. She then was something called Government and Community relations for the President of USC from 2005-2007. That job sounds like she used to go pay Andrew Sorensen's parking tickets for him. Starting in 2007 she became the Director of Governmental Affairs & Community Affairs for the City of Columbia. 'What the hell is that', you are probably asking. Well she says in that job handled lobbying efforts for the city and was an intergovernmental relations liaison. Which is gobbledygook for a sweet gig not doing much. She rode that gravy train till 2011 when she landed the Assistant City Manager job. So she has 1 year experience as an assistant and 5 years as a whatever, even adding them up she's still 2 years short on the minimum.
WLTX did a story back on Dec 27th pointing out that she wasn't qualified and mentioned that some thought her 20 year friendship with Mayor Steve Benjamin may have been the deciding factor. The Mayor's spokesperson did little to squash that rumor with the 1st sentence in his e-mail reply. "Mayor Benjamin and Ms. Wilson have been friends for nearly two decades giving him a unique opportunity to witness her intelligence, talent and dedication first hand". Which does make the Mayor's defense of Ms Wilson sound true. "She is uniquely qualified and understands the city and vision of council". Translation; anyone else with these qualifications wouldn't be qualified and she will do whatever I ask her to. Look Mayor Benjamin if you and the majority of city council want to steam roll us with whatever it is you want to get done, I guess you can try. But in the future at least get the qualifications in the ad right in either your first or second attempt so all of this doesn't have to come out in the open.
Congrats Ms Wilson on your ability to build friendships with people in power. Best of luck on your new 6 figure job, and if possible please don't run the capitol city in to the ditch.