Riverdale City Council approves city manager

By Greg Gelpi

The Riverdale City Council unanimously approved a contract with Iris Jessie to be city manager.

Jessie, who is an assistant city manager in Norfolk, Va., will replace Sylvester Murray and Ulysses Ford III, who have been serving as interim city managers.

"Mayor and council, a good day has arrived," Murray said.

Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham said she will work with the City Council no matter who the city manager is.

"I will work with anyone the City Council appoints," Graham said. "I will work with the city manager that the council appoints for the city."

Clayton County NAACP President Dexter Matthews wasn't familiar with Jessie, but is hoping she will be the answer to some of the city's problems.

"Hopefully, she can stabilize things," Matthews said. "Hopefully, we can work with her to get some of the issues in the city resolved."

Murray fired Riverdale Police Department Capt. Philip Neely, sparking protests by the NAACP and a march on Saturday to have him reinstated.

Jessie, one of 63 applicants for the position, said she awaits direction from the City Council before she develops a plan for the city.

"I'm waiting for the council to tell me this," she said. "I will certainly have my comments and suggestions."

Jessie was one of only five applicants interviewed by the City Council for the position.

One program she has instituted in previous cities has been "Neighborhood University," a program that provides forums for city officials and department heads to meet with the community and describe what they and their offices do.

"That seemed to be one (City Council members) were excited about," Jessie said.

She said she chose to apply for the city manager position because she wants to work in a small town in her home state of Georgia.

"It's a small community," Jessie said. "In a small community, you can see your accomplishments quicker."

The council approved the three-year contract with Jessie for an annual salary of $90,000 plus benefits. The contract also covers her moving expenses up to $3,000 and provides $600 a month as a car allowance. Per her contract, she also immediately gets 20 vacation days.

Jessie's contract goes into effect June 7.