Columbia city council

Wilson hired as Columbia city manager

jmonk@thestate.comJanuary 9, 2013 

— Columbia City Council voted Tuesday night to hire assistant city manager Teresa Wilson as city manager at a salary of $190,000 a year, along with use of a city car.

The 38-year-old Wilson’s hiring was approved in a 4-2 vote in a council meeting at A.C. Moore Elementary School. She beat out 27 other candidates to win the post, which she assumed immediately.

Wilson, a 1999 University of South Carolina law school graduate, joined the city in 2007 to manage city lobbying efforts on state and federal levels. In 2011, she became assistant city manager, where she oversees departments including community development and business opportunities. Up to now, she has been making $117,500.

Earlier, two council members – Moe Baddourah and Leona Plaugh – had said Wilson, who had never been a city manager elsewhere, lacked the experience to manage the state’s capital city. They voted “no.” The city has 2,200 employees and a $200 million -plus total budget this year.

The four other council members who voted for Wilson – a Columbia native, Irmo High School graduate and 1996 USC Honors College graduate – praised her intelligence, curiosity, competence and work ethic.

“I can’t think of anyone whom I’ve ever met who has just the raw intelligence of Teresa Wilson,” said council member Cameron Runyan.

But Baddourah said, “I just don’t see how we justify paying Ms. Wilson more money (than outgoing city manager Steve Gantt, who makes $175,000) for a lot less years of experience. I just don’t think I can support this contract.”

Mayor Steve Benjamin said that in setting Wilson’s salary, council looked at a number of city manager salaries in “peer cities” – a group that included Raleigh, Savannah, Augusta, Greenville and Greensboro.

“One thing that became clear to us was that, particularly in wanting to attract the best talent, was that our city manager was underpaid,” Benjamin said, noting the salary was just below the average salaries in Columbia’s “peer cities.”

After the meeting, Wilson was surrounded by happy well-wishers. They included her father, Calhoun County School superintendent Steve Wilson, her mother, also named Teresa Wilson, a retired educator, and the new city manager’s daughter, Alex, 9.

Wilson, who said she felt “mostly humbled,” said immediate priorities including maintaining the city’s financial stability and looking for efficiencies. “I don’t anticipate any major overhauls because our staff is exceptional. There will obviously be some tweaks.”

Wilson described her management style this way: “I don’t hover over staff; I do like to be informed. I’m a big proponent of motivating staff to work to the best of their abilities, but also giving a little push when necessary.”

Overall goals include making the city a vibrant place where residents want to stay, but also a place where people want to move to, she said.

Benjamin said Wilson “grasps the vision for where we are trying to go as a city, but she’s very detail- and process-oriented. She’s customer-focused. She will be open, transparent and a great communicator. I fully expect her to be a superstar.”

Wilson’s contract includes a provision whereby she can be removed by a majority vote of council. But if she is fired without serious cause – such as criminal conduct – she will be paid a year’s severance pay.

Councilwoman Tameika Devine was not present.

Read the City Coucil resoluion offering Wilson the job

Columbia City Council resolution offering Teresa Wilson job as City Manager

Read Wilson’s resume

Teresa Wilson Resume

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