City of Griffin names Jessica O’Connor deputy city manager

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The city of Griffin has promoted Jessica Whatley-O’Connor to the newly created position of deputy city manager. She was promoted from her previous position of chief of staff/staff attorney, a position she has held since July 2016.

O’Connor says her new position will assist in further streamlining city operations.

“The reporting of the directors will be different. As chief of staff they did not have to directly report to me. It was recommended that they come to me for advice before going to (City Manager) Kenny Smith, but they didn’t have to,” she said, later adding, “I think that there are lot of times that they’ve already relied on my advice to help things run more efficiently. With my legal expertise, I’m able to help provide information and advice on the front end instead of it going to Mr. Smith, a decision being made and then me being asked for a legal opinion on that decision.”

The new organizational structure will have department heads reporting directly to O’Connor.

“Day-to-day, practically speaking, Mr. Smith is not going to shut his door,” she stressed. “Mr. Smith isn’t going to disappear off the face of the earth. He’ll certainly still be involved in the city’s operations. I believe it will be a lot of collaboration and in my opinion, collaboration can only help. He’s always had an open-door policy with department heads and the public, and I’m sure that will remain the same.”

A two-year contract for Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith was approved during the Tuesday, Jan. 14 meeting of the Griffin Board of Commissioners.

O’Connor said the chief of staff position no longer exists on the city’s organizational chart.

“It’s just now deputy city manager rather than chief of staff,” she said.

Asked if she is being prepared to fill Smith’s position in the future, O’Connor said, “That’s not my choice. Our commissioners get to make that decision. It’s something I’m very interested in. I will certainly be prepared to do that if it’s the pleasure of the board. If Mr. Smith feels that I’m prepared and capable of doing it, then I’ll be ready to take on that challenge and excited to do so.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and her juris doctorate from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, O’Connor worked five years as an associate in the Whalen Law Firm. She has also served as the Municipal Court solicitor for the cities of Griffin and McDonough. She believes her previous experience has well prepared her for the position of deputy city manager.

“I’m excited for the new challenge and I think my position as an attorney through Drew Whalen and also for the city has certainly prepared me for this position,” she said. “With Mr. Smith’s guidance and expertise, I look forward to making a positive difference here. It’s the city that I live in and the city I love.”

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