Pike County Times
The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal at the link on the bottom of the page. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
Welcome to Pike County Times.com

This online news website is owned and operated by Becky Watts. If you enjoy reading Pike County Times, consider buying an advertisement for your business or sending a donation to support the only free online newspaper in Pike County. Donations can be sent to: The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. Click here to donate through PayPal. Thanks for supporting Pike County's only free online newspaper!


Click here to go to First Bank of Pike's Website
BREAKING NEWS: An Introduction to Our County Manager Applicants
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - Two candidates for County Manager were named at the September 25, 2018 meeting of the Pike County Board of Commissioners. By this time next month, a new county manager could be attending meetings here in Pike County.

What does the advertisement for Pike County Manager say and what is required of those who are chosen for this position? And who are the finalists and what experiences do they have to offer to the citizens of Pike County? Pike County Times obtained the applications that were submitted to the Board of Commissioners and conducted an extensive web search of each candidate as well as contacting each candidate with questions.

[Note from the Editor: There is a link at the bottom of this article to the latest information on this search.]

County Manager Requirements

The Pike County Board of Commissioners put out a request for applications for the position of County Manager after the resignation of former County Manager John Hanson. The request states that Pike County is searching for qualified candidates for a county with a population of 17,941 and an annual budget of $10 million along with 130 employees. It was stated that the County Manager is appointed by and reports to the Pike County Board of Commissioners which includes four district Commissioners and a Chairman who are elected and serve four year staggered terms.

The request stated that applicants “should have knowledge of quality growth management practices, government finance and human resource management, community planning and rural public works management, with strong leadership/communication skills.” It also state that applicants must be able to develop and implement goals and objectives as well as being able to oversee management and supervision of all County Department Heads and Directors who are not elected officials or constitutional officers. “Duties include administration of the County government in accordance with policies formulated by the Pike County Board of Commissioners.”

The Commissioners advised that they prefer someone with a degree in Business and/or Public Administration but that they would consider a combination of education, experience, and motivation. They also advised that County Official certification is preferred, but that a commitment to “complete this certification promptly” would be considered.

Interim County Manager Rob Morton also advised that during the search process, all candidates were asked if they would be willing to move to Pike County. “The answers of each candidate were considered by the Commissioners as part of the selection process,” he said.

The application deadline was August 31, 2018. The two finalists are Jim (James) Hedges of Ashburn, Georgia and Michelle Irizarry from Auburn, Georgia.

Jim Hedges

In a July 17, 2018 letter to the Pike County Board of Commissioners, Jim Hedges submitted his resume and cited experience as a “City Manager, a Mayor, and as a senior manager with a Fortune 100 company with international experience.” He went on to say that, “While much of my experience has been in the business world, I understand the social value of the non-profit sector and my business and municipal experience will be an asset to Pike County.”

He cited previous responsibilities that included running the daily operations of a municipality, experience with strategic planning, communications skills between a Mayor and Council, preparation and reporting of monthly and annual budgets, and ensuring that laws, ordinances, and charter provisions are executed and enforced.

He ended by that his multi-national experience has taught him “how to build strong relationships with all departments and within an organization with a strategy of using best practices with proven results to find and create a diverse and inclusive workplace. He said that he has the ability to work within a team and with cross-functional teams and cited his ability to resolve technical issues and implement technical enhancements.

In his Summary of Significant Professional Accomplishments given to Pike County Commissioners [Note from the Editor: I referred to his resume on Linkedin for the dates], Jim served as City Manager of Pelham, Georgia. Linkedin shows that he served as City Manager from January of 2015 to March of 2018 and that he retired from this City Manager position. During his service in Pelham, he cited experience that included reversing an inherited $1,450,000 short-term financial deficit in January of 2015 that was turned around to a $1,146,000 surplus by March of 2018 and converting a 12 acre incarceration facility into a community complex. He also cited several grants that he was involved in including a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for water and sewer improvements in 2015, a $750,000 Community Block Grant for housing improvements in 2017, and a low to moderate housing tax credit of $11,900,000 in 2017. You can read about Pelham, Georgia by clicking here: https://cityofpelhamga.com.

A web search of Jim Hedges found that he is currently running for Ashburn City Council and the election will be held on November 6, 2018. [Note from the Editor: The photo and information about Amoco and Pelham match up on both the Linkedin resume and Mr. Hedges’ Facebook page so I sent a private message on Friday, September 28, 2018 to ask some questions including a confirmation that he is the person I meant to write to. I asked questions about satisfying residency requirements if he wins the Ashburn election (Ashburn is about 104 miles from Zebulon according to www.usageo.org) and how he could devote enough time to both positions to ensure that the citizens of Ashburn and the citizens of Pike County are both served to the best of his capability if he is elected to the City Council position in Ashburn. I will update this article when and if I receive a reply.] There are several posts on Jim Hedges’ Facebook page regarding the upcoming election. One reads, “Please vote for Jim Hedges on November 6th for Ashburn City Council. As your former Mayor and a City Manager, I have 11 years of municipal government experience. Thank you for your support and please SHARE this post to your friends.”

Jim’s Summary (and his resume on Linkedin for the dates) shows that he was employed as Mayor of the City of Ashburn, Georgia from January of 2007 through December of 2014. During this time, he actively worked to help revitalize the local American Legion chapter, he obtained and dedicated a vacant piece of land and historical building in honor of a local WWII Marine aviator and Medal of Honor recipient, organized the venue and program for the four day Vietnam Traveling Wall, and he “transformed Ashburn into one of the most patriotic cities in South Georgia where the American flag is on all light poles through-out the downtown area, and the largest American flag, 30’ by 60’, is flown on I-75 at exit 82.”

As far as grants go during his Mayoral service, he played a key role in obtaining four Community Development Block Grants from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs totaling $2,000,000 for water and sewer improvements, he lead the application and implementation of Ashburn’s first Community Home Improvement Grant (CHIP) of $300,000 which helped 23 residents become first-time home owners, and he privately recruited IDP Housing for the development of a new apartment low-to-moderate housing complex that required working with the Turner County Board of Education that owned the land, IDP Housing, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. His Summary states that tax credits in the amount of $8,500,000 were granted in 2013 and the 54 unit complex was opened and dedicated in 2015.

Economic Development accomplishments during this Mayoral tenure include being a member of the Turner County Development Authority for eight years, creating and serving as Chairman of the Ashburn Downtown Development Authority for seven years—during which numerous residential and commercial properties were obtained and either utilized for the CHIP program or downtown development. He also worked privately with one of the co-owners of Flash Foods and his family (Jones), the Jones’ family real estate department, the private land owner and his real estate firm, the Summitt Group-Macon, and the Turner County Development Authority for two years on the economic development of I-75 exit 82 which resulted in one of the largest Flash Foods Convenience Stores in the Flash Foods chain with 28 pumps at the exit and one of the top 5 in the Flash Food chain.

His Summary of Accomplishments also lists being the Senior Finance & Administration in the Amoco Corporation-Fortune 100. (His Linkedin resume states that he was VP Finance and Administration at the Karasu Operating Company from November of 2000 through August of 2002 and Mgr. Finance and Control of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company from January 1995 through August of 1999.) He was selected as the Senior Finance Manager from eleven consortium members to lead all financial activities for the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, a consortium created to develop the massive oil fields in the Republic of Azerbaijan—a former Soviet Union country—with capital expenditures that ranged from $40 to $60 million dollars per month and $2.2 million over a four year period. He was also selected to lead the first Amoco financial and administration multi-discipline support organization of 310 employees in London, England and helped achieve cost reductions of $50 million annually.

He was also appointed to lead the financial and administrative departments of two of Amoco’s three largest overseas operations, coordinated all Europe and West Africa regional accounting, treasury, audit, and management reporting, coordinated all Central, South America and Far East regional accounting, treasury, audit and management reporting. Jim reports that he traveled or lived in 61 countries during his tenure with Amoco.

Jim earned a Bachelor of Science in Administration and Accounting from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma and lists his affiliations as Chairman of the Azerbaijan Financial Committee, Director and Treasurer of the Philippines Petroleum Club, Director and Treasurer of the Cairo American College, Memver of the UKCS Finance Director’s Committee, Member of the Amoco European Shared Services Committee, and Past Chairman of the Ashburn Downtown Development Authority.

Michelle Irizarry

In a July 23, 2018 letter to the Pike County Board of Commissioners, Michelle Irizarry submitted her resume and cited experience of the past fifteen years that includes serving “at various capacities with the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, Northeast Georgia Regional Commission and the City of Statham.” She went on to say that she has been “gifted with extensive public-sector experience” that includes “but is not limited to knowledge and expertise in the area of Governmental Operations and Finance, Capital Projects, Budgets, SPLOST, SDS, Grants, Human Resources and Economic Development.”

She also stated that she is a proud member of the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia City County Managers Association, the Georgia Government Finance Officers Association, and the Barrow Chamber of Commerce.

She ended her letter by saying, “I believe that the opportunity to serve as the County Manager of Pike County is a natural progression and chance for professional growth… Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.”

Her resume shows that she is the current City Administrator for the City of Statham and has been serving in this capacity since August 0f 2017. During this time, she has gained experience working with the Mayor, City Council and citizens as well as providing oversight and maintenance with five departments and working with five department directors. She has knowledge of management of financial policies and procedures as well as Human Resources, and has management experience with tax, utility billing, and elections. She also cited economic development experience gained during this time of service. You can find out more about Statham by clicking here: http://www.cityofstatham.com/.

Michelle served as the Accounting Manager for the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission – Executive Office in Athens, Georgia from March of 2017 to July of 2017 citing experience there with oversight, management, and maintenance of general ledger accounts and adjustments, payroll, AP and AR as well as knowledge of investments, and both Cost and Fund accounting, financial statements, cash flows statements, and banking requirements for employees as well as providing assistance to auditors.

She served in the Financial Analyst – Fiscal Analysis Business Unit for Gwinnett County Financial Services – Budgets and Grants Division in Lawrenceville, Georgia from December 2014 to March of 2017. During that time, she provided support to county departments through the solving of financially related problems and by providing a review of internal controls, provided reconciliation and helped resolve financial analysis problems through in depth research, worked with complex financial data as well as prepared and presented financial analysis, communications, etc. to and from internal departments as well financial institutions and external agencies. She also cited the development and implementation of financial procedures and analysis of related legislation. She was the Mobility Manger at Gwinnett County Community Services – Senior Services in Lawrenceville, Georgia from July 2013 through December of 2014. During this time, she coordinated with the Department of Transportation, MARTA and the Atlanta Regional Commission for mobility services for seniors and Gwinnett County Senior Services as well as supervised a staff including providing management and prioritization of work, work performance appraisals, training, hiring, and discipline actions. She cited experience in this position with federal, state, and county funding.

Michelle worked as a Program Analyst II at the Gwinnett County Department of Transportation in Lawrenceville, Georgia from October 2012 through July of 2013. Her list of job responsibilities included coordination and administration of the Capital budget along with preparation including history, projection, and revision. She was a liaison to County Community Improvement Districts and Cities and she monitored Capital Project Management, contracts and procurement through finalization. Other experiences were made in preparation of agenda items, change orders and County Administrator items.

Michelle worked as Business Officer for Gwinnett County Community Services in Lawrenceville, Georgia from January of 2010 through October of 2012. There, she learned coordination and administration of a capital budget along with history, projection, and revisions as well as learning how to develop and maintain fixed assets. Monitoring capital project management, contracts and procurement were in her list of job responsibilities as well as supervision of staff including performance appraisals, training, hiring, firing, and disciplinary actions.

From March of 2008 through January of 2010, Michelle was a Business Associate at Gwinnett County Community Services in Lawrenceville. While there, her job responsibilities included procurement card supervision, approval and sign off (WORKS), G/L accounting and reconciliation of accounts for Senior Services, grant and general fund budget preparation and maintenance as well as P/P, payment of personnel, vendor payments, and purchase orders. She also worked under Balanced Scorecard measures.

From March of 2006 through December of 2007, Michelle served a liaison and consultant for part-time employment to off duty police officers through Michelle Irizarry, Inc. in Auburn, Georgia. She cited project management, payroll and salary negotiations, and consulting in her many duties as owner and operator of her own business.

Michelle worked in Accounting for the Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner/Property Tax in Lawrenceville from July 1996 through November of 2001. There, she helped coordinate and prepare daily deposits, became knowledgeable in local, state, and federal tax laws, and gained knowledge and skill in processing returned checks and collection.

In 2008, Michelle earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Shorter University in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and she is involved at Snellville United Methodist Church.

A web search of Ms. Irizarry found that she had also applied for City Manager in Bunnell, Florida in July of this year. Ms. Irizarry is one of six people who were being interviewed for this position, but she was not the final person chosen for the job. [Note from the Editor: Before I finally found a link that showed that the City of Bunnell had made a final choice for their City Manager, I contacted her by email on the evening of September 27 to ask about this. Here is her reply from the evening of September 27.]

“Thank you for reaching out! I was looking at Bunnell Florida, but found Pike County and fell in love. Pike County is beautiful and has so much to offer. I would love to have the opportunity to relocate with my family and serve as County Manager.

I am honored to have been named as a finalist and I would love to serve the citizens of Pike County. If you have any questions or would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me.”


The Board of Commissioners will announce their final selection after the required 14 days have passed from the date of this announcement. At that time, Mr. Jim Hedges from Ashburn, Georgia or Ms. Michelle Irizarry from Auburn, Georgia will be named as the next county manager for Pike County.

Due to the fact that two commissioners will miss the next regular scheduled meeting because of County Commissioner training, the Pike County Board of Commissioners has tentatively set a meeting for Thursday, October 18th at 6 p.m. in which to announce their final selection for County Manager.

UPDATED 10.8.18:

Click here to read "BREAKING NEWS: Pike County Manager Candidates Both Withdraw Their Applications." Keep an eye on Pike County Times for the latest updates on this County Manager Search.

Thank you to First Bank of Pike for sponsoring Pike County Times’ Breaking News Alerts! First Bank of Pike has been serving customers in Pike County and the surrounding area since 1901 and offers Personal and Business banking with a personal touch. Services include checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit, and IRA’s. Mobile Banking and Bill Payment services are also available! Click here for more. Please let First Bank of Pike know that you appreciate their sponsorship of Breaking News Alerts on Pike County's only FREE online newspaper!

If you want to find out about how you can get Breaking News Alerts, click here. Thanks for reading and supporting Pike County Times.com!