York County’s new manager looks forward to paving future

jzou@heraldonline.comAugust 30, 2013 

The five finalists to be York County manager met with residents during a reception Monday at the Baxter Hood Center in Rock Hill. Finalist Bill Shanahan, left, talks with a York County resident.

ANDY BURRISS — aburriss@heraldonline.com

Bill Shanahan said he’s ready for the long-term opportunities and the unique challenges that York County presents.

“It’s really exciting,” Shanahan, 56, said. “Being a part of the future.”

The York County Council voted unanimously on Monday night to hire Shanahan to replace Jim Baker as county manager. Baker left in January to pursue a higher-paying job in Virginia.

Council chairman Britt Blackwell said council members were impressed by Shanahan’s credentials, which include more than 16 years in local government, as well as his affable and genuine demeanor.

Shanahan’s employment contract with the county is expected to be finalized by the end of August, according to the county manager’s office, and Shanahan said it should take no more than 45 days from then to relocate to South Carolina.

“They’re getting ready to update the comprehensive plan and identify where they wanna be for the next 20 or 25 years,” Shanahan said of the county council’s long-term planning. “Then it’s up to me and the staff ... to come up with a roadmap of how we’re going to get there.”

Shanahan currently serves as deputy administrator for the city of Augusta, Ga., where he oversees day-to-day operations. The city is part of a consolidated government with Richmond County, Ga., and has a combined population of nearly 200,000.

By comparison, York County boasts a population of more than 230,000, which continues to grow.

His two years in Augusta have been marked by restructured departments as well as investigations into mismanagement that Shanahan himself looked into. He has had to serve as acting director of various city departments on top of his regular job because of administrative changes.

The ability to wear multiple hats and devise long-term plans are traits that Shanahan believes will serve him well in York County.

Shanahan has spent all of his administrative career in Georgia, working in various city and county-level positions since 1996. Before that, he spent two decades in the U.S. Air Force in law enforcement and industrial engineering.

He holds a master’s degree in public administration from City University of Seattle in Washington and completed his bachelor’s degree in vocational education at Southern Illinois University, according to his resume.

For Shanahan, the top items on his York County agenda are meeting with members of the community and meeting with elected officials to evaluate where they think the county is headed.

He sees creating jobs as being paramount to managing long-term growth in the county. “Economic development is a lot more than bringing jobs to a community, it’s bringing them in a way that they’re still here in three or five years,” he said.

According to the latest figures from the state Department of Employment and Workforce, unemployment in York County was 8.2 percent in July, slightly above the state’s rate.

Shanahan expects to work closely with both the council and the county staff to oversee capital projects, but said he isn’t interested in micro-managing. “Leadership is not one person telling everyone what to do; leadership is getting people to be part of the process,” he said of his hands-off approach.

Baker, the previoius manager, resigned amid reports of disagreement with the council.

Both Shanahan and the other finalist, Steve Layson, also of Georgia, were invited to attend Monday’s meeting before the final round of closed-door interviews to observe the council and how it deals with the public and pushes forward agenda items.

“You could tell the councilmen care about the county,” Shanahan said of the council meeting. “There were back and forward discussions, and that’s what makes government work.”

“Are we always going to agree with each other? No,” said Shanahan. “As long as we’re all going in the same direction.”

Jie Jenny Zou•  803-329-4062

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