City Manager goodbyes

Jennifer Payne-Simpkins said her final public goodbyes during her last City Council meeting on Nov. 25. Payne-Simpkins’ last official day on the job was Dec. 3 due to her moving to Lilburn, Ga., to serve as assistant city manager for that municipality.

At the end of her final City Council meeting on Nov. 25, outgoing Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins thanked city staff for their collaboration and thanked residents for welcoming her into the community.

“Mayor and council, I don’t have any city business to report to you all, but I just want to say thank you for an amazing three years,” Payne-Simpkins said.

Payne-Simpkins, who took over as city manager in early 2017, recently announced that she would be leaving the city to take the assistant city manager’s position in Lilburn, Ga. Her last official day on the job was Dec. 3.

Payne-Simpkins’ parting sentiments to the City Council and the community were bittersweet as she was well-liked by all and did a lot for the city in a short time.

“This will be my last City Council meeting here as city manager and I just want to say thank you for this opportunity because it has been an absolute pleasure to work with you all, to work with all the department directors and city staff. They’re incredible,” she said.

During her tenure, Payne-Simpkins was always very active in community events, which allowed her to make a number of meaningful connections with residents.

“It’s been great to work with the residents as well. You all will be missed, and from to bottom of my heart, I just want to say thank you,” she added.

Mayor Earl Gray returned the sentiment stating that Payne-Simpkins will missed by all.

“Thank you Ms. Simpkins, we appreciate your service,” Gray said. “You’ve been an asset to us and we’re going to miss you.”

During the council comments to the public, each member of the board took time to personally thank Payne-Simpkins for all she’s done during her tenure.

“We appreciate you,” council member Derek Rogers said. “We’ve tried to convince you to stay, but I understand moving for your opportunity. We’re thankful for you and we really do appreciate you.”

“It’s a small town and we all become family. It’s like losing a family member,” council member Craig Crawford added. “If they don’t treat you right down there, you always have a home to come back to. We will be missing you.”

The city’s search for a replacement is already underway, with Police Chief Mike Helton stepping in to serve as interim city manager.

Helton served several years as Catoosa County manager before returning to his law enforcement roots.

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009.

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