Commissioners hire Bonner as new County Manager

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Just when he was out, they pulled him back in.

Not Michael Corleone in “The Godfather Part III,” but Lyndon Bonner, who was offered an employment agreement as county manager by the Henry County Board of Commissioners at its Oct. 6 meeting just two weeks after he sent a letter to the board removing himself from consideration for the position.

The board action was effective immediately.

The search has been going on for a permanent county manager since Jim Walker stepped down in early May after a little more than a year on the job. Cheri Matthews, then deputy county manager, moved into the role on a temporary basis and was officially named interim county manager by the board during the summer.

Chairman Tommy Smith announced Aug. 31 that Bonner and Matthews were the finalists for the position but there was no set timetable on when the choice would be made. Bonner was one of the three finalists for the job in early 2014 when Walker was hired, and Smith said Bonner was his choice at that time.

The most recent search was slowed by the commissioners last month, and Bonner stated in a Sept. 23 letter to the board that he had been notified of such and it factored into his decision to withdraw.

“Henry County is a wonderful place and serving as county manager is an extraordinary opportunity,” Bonner wrote. “However, due to the indefinite nature of the appointment it would be insincere on my part to continue. Regrettably, I am withdrawing from full-time consideration as the county manager.”

Meanwhile, Matthews has recently been under fire amid allegations of impropriety regarding pay raises given to specific county employees under her watch, although no formal action has been taken by the board. Many people in the community have come to the defense of Matthews, who is black, and Commissioner Bruce Holmes stated in late August that he felt she was by far the best person to be named county manager.

Holmes cast the lone dissenting vote on Commissioner Brian Preston’s motion to offer Bonner the job. Before making the motion, Preston praised Matthews for her work with county over more than a decade as well as her stint as interim county manager but said there were not enough votes in her favor for the permanent position.

“I have always enjoyed working with her. I have not been disappointed at any time working with her,” said Preston. “Without a doubt I consider her to be a tremendous asset to the Board of Commissioners.”

After the vote, Smith read the following prepared statement:

“On behalf of the Board of Commissioners, I would like to thank Cheri Matthews for stepping in and serving as interim county manager for the past several months. It is a difficult position and Ms. Matthews’ efforts while in that role are appreciated. We are hopeful that Ms. Matthews will return to her role as deputy county manager and continue her service to the county.”

There were no other public comments on the decision at the meeting.

“I’m excited about Henry County and the opportunity to lead a great team of employees,” Bonner said in a statement released Thursday. “I look forward to serving the Henry community and turning possibilities into realities.”