Hankerson said the meeting, which took place about a week ago, was initiated after a search firm contacted him on the Fulton board’s behalf. No formal offer has yet been extended, although Hankerson expects the Fulton board will make a decision within the next few weeks.
As for whether Hankerson, 67, would accept Fulton’s offer if it were made, he would not say.
“I don’t know. That’s when the decision time has got to come,” he said.
Hankerson also wouldn’t say what would cause him to say “yes” to such an offer.
“I don’t know,” he said. “They’ve not talked specifics, contract, salary, nothing. There are a lot of factors you have to consider.”
A spokeswoman for Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Eaves said Eaves could not comment on the matter because it was a personnel issue.
Spokeswoman Bobbie Battista said, “The process of selecting a county manager isn’t complete yet. The short list of candidates will be made public very soon, however.”
The position of Fulton County manager opened when Zach Williams left the job to become chief operating officer of DeKalb County in December. As Fulton County manager, Williams received a base salary of $200,000.
Hankerson receives a base salary of $246,923. His total compensation as manager of Cobb County is $274,007.
Eligibility for retirement
Hankerson has been eligible to retire since December 1, 2003. Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee said that means Hankerson could retire and begin collecting his pension, while being paid the new salary as Fulton County manager. That practice is known as “double dipping,” a term Lee said he doesn’t care for.
“I don’t like the term No. 1,” Lee said. “I think anyone that’s planned well for their career to have the opportunity to retire and get a retirement and still be young enough to take advantage of other employment opportunities to better advance their lifestyle and their priorities, I’m all for that. That is the American way.”
Hankerson has been Cobb’s manager since 1993. The current amendment to his contract was approved Jan. 27, 2011, and will expire Jan. 31, 2014.
Lee and commissioners Helen Goreham and JoAnn Birrell applauded the job Hankerson has done.
Goreham said a few years ago, Commissioner Bob Ott and then-Commissioner Thea Powell wanted to fire Hankerson.
“He and Thea Powell wanted to replace the county manager a couple years ago, I think, right as the recession was hitting,” Goreham said. “They said they wanted to, and they were looking for my vote, and I would not support it. I thought he was doing a good job, and they obviously had issues at that time, and I said if you have issues, then the process is to write him up and start the process.”
Goreham said this isn’t the first time Hankerson has told her he was eyeing another job.
“I want to say four years ago he brought it to my attention that Paulding County was courting him,” she said.
Yet Goreham cautioned against “jumping the gun” in thinking Hankerson was leaving Cobb.
“I don’t think he’s made it a formal declaration,” she said. “I think the news story is just starting to hit here. And again you’ve got to see what this gentleman wants. Does he want a change? Does he want a new challenge? Is it salary-based? Is it whatever?”
It’s up to Hankerson
Goreham, Lee, Birrell and Ott all said the decision is up to Hankerson whether to stay.
“As a member of the board, I would always appreciate kind of a little bit of notice instead of reading about it in the paper, but with that said, I think it’s a personal decision that the county manager has to make…,” Ott said. “Bottom line is it comes down to what is best for him and his family, and that’s not something for the board to second guess. That’s really up to him. If he is happy here, then I would be surprised to see him leave.”
In reference to Goreham’s comment about Ott wanting to replace Hankerson, Ott said it was a matter of whether the county should have both a full-time county manager and a full-time chairman.
As chairman, Lee is paid a base salary of $129,877.45, a travel salary of $7,200 and a “training/longevity” stipend of $1,354.35.
“Two years ago the issue came up relative to the fact we had a full-time chairman and a full-time county manager, which seems excessive relative to cost,” Ott said.
Hankerson said if there was a message he wanted Cobb residents to take away from his job proposal, it was that he’s happy where he is, but that it’s always good to keep an open mind about the future.
“I’ve had 20 good years of being in this position of serving the residents and the citizens of this county, and every year has been an enjoyable year, and I have no bad memories and also working with the best employees of any government or agency, public or private, I know,” Hankerson said. “We’ve got a great team here. That’s every manager’s dream.”
Hankerson also emphasized that Fulton County came to him.
“It’s not something I was out there actively pursuing, but I get them every two or three months,” he said. “When you’ve managed big governments as long as I have, and you’ve got a county that’s rated and respected by so many people, you’re going to be pursued, and that’s a good thing to be pursued rather than not being pursued.”