COLUMBIA, SC — 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 Wilsons 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 states 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 cant think of anyone whom Ive ever met who has just the raw intelligence of Teresa Wilson, said council member Cameron Runyan.
But Baddourah said, I just dont 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 dont think I can support this contract.
Mayor Steve Benjamin said that in setting Wilsons 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 Columbias 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 managers daughter, Alex, 9.
Wilson, who said she felt mostly humbled, said immediate priorities including maintaining the citys financial stability and looking for efficiencies. I dont anticipate any major overhauls because our staff is exceptional. There will obviously be some tweaks.
Wilson described her management style this way: I dont hover over staff; I do like to be informed. Im 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 shes very detail- and process-oriented. Shes customer-focused. She will be open, transparent and a great communicator. I fully expect her to be a superstar.
Wilsons 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 years severance pay.
Councilwoman Tameika Devine was not present.