WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Correction: An earlier version of this story, citing the city's Human Resources records, stated two of the nine directors had college degrees. That is incorrect. Three directors have four-year college degrees and two more have associate's degrees.
Warner Robins could be headed for a city government shakeup.
Things are far from set in stone at this point, but city council is currently debating the merits of hiring a city administrator.
Some council members, like Daron Lee, argue it's badly needed. In Lee's view, a city administrator would fix what he sees as problems in the city's hiring process.
While making that argument last week, he said Warner Robins' white department directors are less-educated than their minority peers.
"If you look at the minorities in leadership positions here, they have degrees, many degrees," he said. "But then you look at the other races, they don't."
He qualified the statement a bit, conceding whites "have some" degrees, but said overall, "it's not fair."
He thinks a city administrator would level the playing field.
"We need to get past friends hiring friends," he said.
When asked, Mayor Randy Toms said the city's hiring process does not discriminate.
"Not that I'm aware of, no," he said.
Toms argued that, for leadership positions, skill, and experience often matter more than degrees.
"Our department directors, the ones that have college educations, more power to them," he said. "But I think that certainly we have some department directors that know more about what they're doing than any educated person ever will."
So is Lee's claim true? Answering that question and especially passing judgement on the presence or lack of anything that could be deemed "unfair" is beyond the scope of this article.
Instead, this piece aims to add some facts to the conversation surrounding this issue by answering this question: do white department directors have fewer degrees than their non-white colleagues?
City spokesperson Mandy Stella says Warner Robins has nine departments, each with one leader. Typically, that's the department director, although in two cases (Police and Public Works departments), the leaders are serving in an 'acting' capacity. In one other case (the city clerk's office), there is currently no director or acting director. Instead, Stella says assistant city clerk Kathy Opitz is leading the office.
According to information we received from the city's human resources department in an open records request, out of those nine, three had four-year college degrees and two more had two-year degrees.
That means a little less than fifty percent of those city department leaders have no more than a high school education.
Of the nine, only one was non-white: Daron Lee's brother, Gary Lee. He leads the city's economic development department and has a bachelor's degree.