The city manager says so long; meanwhile, who is really in charge?


Peachtree City Manager Robert Curnow — one year after his arrival — has resigned, thus setting off another search for the person who will manage the day-to-day operation of the city of 38,000-plus residents.

Here is a statement attributed to “the city” about his departure:

“We are grateful for Robert Curnow’s dedicated service as the City Manager of Peachtree City and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. With his departure, we want to assure our residents and stakeholders that there will be no loss of continuity or service. We are confident in the capabilities of Assistant City Manager Justin Strickland, who will ensure a seamless transition of ongoing projects and services, which will continue uninterrupted. Our commitment remains steadfast in delivering high-quality services and maintaining the well-being of our community.”

The “we” in the statement presumably is “the city.” Mayor Kim Learnard had no statement for The Citizen, since she’s in a snit about our opinions about some of her official actions.

Assistant City Manager Justin Strickland. Photo/Peachtree City website
Assistant City Manager Justin Strickland. Photo/Peachtree City website.

After Curnow’s last day next month, current Assistant City Manager Justin Strickland will step into the vacancy temporarily, as he did the last time the permanent city manager — Jon Rorie — resigned.

Strickland — who’s been here three years now — says the city’s biggest challenge will be to keep “the momentum going.”

“The city has a good staff” who “work well together” and that will assure continuity in city operations, Strickland said.

Foremost on the city’s to-do list is the completion of the sale of land off Ga. Highway 74 South to provide a second building for the city’s Police Department.

A building already is there — including the current OnTarget gun range — which will be refitted to provide more space for expansion for the department to move into. The current headquarters building will remain, but officers will have an additional 20,000 square feet to work with.

So now the questions will arise: Was City Manager Curnow counting the days for one year to pass so his resumé would not be negatively impacted in seeking his next job? Did he realize what he was getting into when he signed on here?

Will the next city manager realize that Mayor Kim Learnard runs the show and the new manager will have to adjust to her daily directions while the other four council members show up for two meetings a month to stamp or react to whatever the showrunner has decided needs doing?

Quick city charter lesson: The city government is known as a “weak mayor — strong manager” form of governing. In other words, the mayor has NO statutory authority to order the city manager or any other city employee what to do or what not to do. That’s the full 5-member council’s duty — if they choose to exercise it the way they should. That is black-letter law contained in the city charter and ordinances.

But if the mayor thinks otherwise — well, let’s just say it doesn’t take long for city employees to figure out who really is in charge, legally or not. The city’s expanded communications operations already gets its shots called by the mayor.

(P.S.: The mayor is assembling her reelection campaign team using local taxpayer funds to give her a big leg up on whoever dares to challenge her second-term inauguration two years from now. “Mondays with the Mayor” video weekly will grow.)

Is this what happened to Bob Curnow? He came in thinking he was in charge, answerable to a full 5-member council — as the city charter and ordinances say — but discovered that he really answered to one person only?

I think Mayor Kim says we can take our weak-mayor notions and shove them up where the sunlight of public opinion never shines.

Oh, and check me on this: my totally off-the-wall guess is that there may be a gender change for the next city manager. About time, right?

[Cal Beverly has been the editor and publisher of The Citizen since 1993.]


  1. Mr King – any second thoughts about throwing mud at council members as the reason for Curnow’s resignation?

    You took unfounded shots at engineers (who appear in your mind to be know-it-all Karens), the length of residency of two council members that a majority of voters had no problem with, and amazingly, at one member who has the misfortune of dealing with a serious illness. Do you need a mulligan on this one?

    You even contradict yourself. On one hand, the “four engineers” (really?) plus one meddle in the day to day operations of the city, yet you also blame “the void of leadership / direction from our Council” for Curnow’s departure. Which is it?

    The mayor has earned her reputation for being difficult, uncivil and going outside her authority (eg the gun ban letter). I have yet to see how the rest of council deserves your attempt to tar them as well.

    • Actually, I will Mr. Cat Owner. Having dined with Mr. Curnow just the other day and sharing my disappointment about his imminent departure I learned that although what Mr. Holland writes is true, there were other factors as well, including those you infer to be wrong. Bottom line , Sir, is that egg was laid some time back.

  2. I know you received a copy of Bob Curnow’s resignation letter this week.
    Please sir, understand these are the real facts about the departure of City Manager Bob Curnow:
    Bob’s family and his extended family in Florida had some health issues that required more help than his family could handle without him at home.
    The City Manager works for all five of us in an equal manner. As a city council member, I can personally say that I had a excellent working relationship with Bob Curnow, and I wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

    • Thanks for that response Clint. It also confirms what I heard from Mayor Learnard. I know we all wish Bob and his family well. He’ll be missed but I’m sure the Council will receive some good candidates for that very important position. And please, let’s argue policies and positions civilly but not engage in unsubstantiated character assassination. There’s already too much of that at the national level.

  3. How funny, ex councilman Mike King served with Bob C-U-R-N-O-W for how long and he doesn’t even know how to spell the man’s last name??

    Mike with all the council skeletons in his closet is right when he agrees with Cal Beverly that Queen Kim is trying to rule over everyone and ran the city manager off.

    But Mike King throwing stones in a glass house is a too much to handle.

  4. “Up to this point, new City Manager Bob Curnow has aided Learnard in her misdeeds, even violating state law himself. In our hybrid-mayor form of government, the mayor has no more authority than the other council members. Kowtowing to the mayor and following her misdirection is not in the best interests of the city or the city council.

    Planning with the mayor behind the backs of the other members of the council will not be tolerated. When there are meetings with other agencies such as the Georgia Department of Transportation, both Curnow and Learnard have a responsibility to fully inform the other members of the council on exactly what transpired, bringing them up-to-date also on communications that follow.

    The inability to supply the council members with documents, presentations, etc., pertinent to the workshop meeting agenda items in advance is inexcusable. A well-prepared council member is an asset to the community. Just as important, the citizens also deserve to see those materials in advance.

    One-word agenda items without descriptions are not informative and are downright insulting.

    Both Learnard and Curnow need to respect the new council members and the constituents.”

    • The quote above is from a post on The Citizen accusing Mr. Curnow of violating state law, working with Kim Learnard and ignoring the other council members.

      This post claims that Mr. Curnow resigned because Kim Learnard thought she was in charge.

      The two stories seem to contradict each other.

  5. Unless and until Mr Curnow lets us know his reasons for resigning it’s all speculation. But having been here for only a year does leave one to wonder why. Let’s hope it’s not his dissatisfaction with the Council’s leadership or lack thereof as Mr King hints.

  6. Mr. Cournow’s departure is a serious blow to our now City Council of some ninety days. My guess is that it was certainly not the pollen that proved to be the last straw. My bet is that certain Council Member(s) can not help themselves involving themselves into the everyday functions of our fair city. After all, four of them claim to be engineers.
    Could it be that we elected two Council Members with hardly five years residency, or in one case a serious illness, or yet another who claimed to have all the answers and the ideas to move the city forward. Mr Beverly is correct in his explanation of our City Charter-it is the manager who runs the city and is employed by the five Members, not any one in particular including the Mayor. In my opinion Bob Cournow is an outstanding manager who like his predecessor has worked himself up through the ranks and is totally capable of running Peachtree City. Further, our City Manager is not the problem, but a void of leadership/direction from our Council.
    Instead of fighting among each other, perhaps Council should see this as a wake up call and figure out how to govern and toss those inflated egos.