John McDonough, Sandy Springs’ only city manager in its history, was humble as he publicly said goodbye.
McDonough attended his last city council meeting July 16 at City Springs before taking the city manager’s job for the city of Greenville, South Carolina, and his last day is Aug. 2. He has been with Sandy Springs since January 2006, about a month after its inception.
“I think the mayor (Rusty Paul) would have you think I’ve done all this myself, and it’s very far from the truth,” he said after Paul sang his praises at the meeting. “We’ve had a great team here. I want to thank Mayor Paul and the council. I want to think the city for providing the resources needed to make this such a great city. It’s been my privilege for over 13 years to be the city manager here. It’s very much with mixed feelings here that I leave.
“I will always look fondly at the time I’ve spent here in Sandy Springs. The relationships I’ve established both personally and professionally I will always treasure. You’re in great hands. I have the utmost confidence you’ll find a better city manager than the first one. I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I had an opportunity to raise my young children here. They’re in college now.”
Before presenting a proclamation honoring McDonough, Paul talked about what the city manager has meant to Sandy Springs.
“I’m now in my 42nd year in public service,” the mayor said. “I’ve worked with a lot of people in the public space. I have never met anyone more professional, more honorable and more dedicated to doing things the right way for the right reasons than John McDonough. He’s going to be sorely missed. (District 5 Councilman) Tibby (DeJulio) and I fought really hard to bring him here.
“John’s fingerprints are all over this building and anything the city has done. His fingerprints will linger for a long, long time.”
After Paul read the proclamation, McDonough received a standing ovation from the residents attending the meeting. Paul said in 2017 he wanted to give each council member a copy of “Reimagining Greenville: Building the Best Downtown in America,” a book published that year and co-authored by Greenville Mayor Knox White and John Boyanoski, adding it’s ironic White has stolen McDonough.
In an interview after the meeting, McDonough reflected on his tenure in Sandy Springs.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “… It’s over 13 years of Tuesday nights as we look back, and we’ve accomplished a lot in the last 13-plus years as a community. It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I feel very good about it, and I think the city’s in great shape. But I’m also looking forward to the next chapter.
“I feel fortunate to have been part of something very special, and very few people have an opportunity to start a new city. At some point every city started but most are much older. We had a fantastic opportunity here in Sandy Springs to be a part of that. I was able to build a great team. To work with a great set of elected officials in a fantastic community was very rewarding.”
The council voted 6-0 to approve a resolution calling for the hiring of Peggy Merriss, who retired as Decatur’s longtime city manager in December, as its interim city manager. She starts Aug. 2, will hold the position through Dec. 31 and will be paid $17,000 a month.
Paul said Merriss had a major impact in helping redevelop Decatur’s downtown district and was “highly recommended” by McDonough.
Sandy Springs also announced it has hired Find Good People, an executive search firm that is, ironically, based in Greenville and actually helped that city find McDonough to fill its vacancy, to help find his permanent replacement.