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Crystal River manager quits

Crystal River City Manager Merv Waldrop submitted his letter of resignation Thursday to take a county administrator's job in Meriwether County, Ga.

His last day is July 16.

Waldrop, 31, said he got a call from the chairman of the Meriwether County Commission early Thursday afternoon. While the commission hadn't taken formal action on hiring him, the majority of the commission had expressed support for conditions Waldrop had proposed.

As Crystal River city manager, a position he has held for three years, Waldrop earns just under $50,000 a year. He started with the city eight years ago as city planner.

Waldrop declined to specify the salary or benefits he had proposed to the Georgia officials but said the salary was comparable and there were several reasons why he agreed to take the job.

"This move will enhance my career goals," he said. "And being back in Georgia, that's got a special place in my heart," the Georgia native added.

Waldrop's parents live about an hour and a half from where he will be working and Waldrop has been known for his support of Georgia sports teams and his frequent trips home to visit his family.

Meriwether County is in central Georgia, southwest of Atlanta. Warm Springs, where Franklin D. Roosevelt died, is in the southern part of the county.

When he interviewed for the job, "I just felt that I belonged there. I understood people, and I didn't feel like an outsider," he said.

Waldrop also said that, despite the draw of the job, he had some mixed emotions about leaving Crystal River.

"I'm going to miss my friends and fellow employees here. It's going to be hard, and also my youth group at church," he said.

The Crystal River Chamber of Commerce named Waldrop this year's Citizen of the Year, and he has said he has felt closer to the community since the March flood that devastated his home as well as City Hall. He is also the Sertoma Club president and has been active in his church.

He said he has felt considerable support from the city council, even during the recent controversial firing of Development Services Director Reg Alford.

With both the city manager and development services director jobs open, Waldrop said the council would have its work cut out.

He noted that he would not be picking an interim person to fill his shoes. "That's the council's decision, but I'm going to at least try to help them make a smooth transition."

City officials expressed sorrow at Waldrop's departure.

"Personally, I hate to lose him," said council member Carson Mason. "The city has a really good manager, and he's going to be hard to replace."

Mason noted that Waldrop's departure comes just as the budget process is beginning, "but we'll survive."

"I hate to see Merv leave," agreed council member Levi Phillips. "Merv has been good for the city. I've got a lot of admiration for Merv Waldrop and I always will. He's been a very dedicated city employee."

Phillips said that, despite his differences with Waldrop over issues such as the Alford firing, he will miss Waldrop.

"I think the people up there at Meriwether, Ga., have a lot to look forward to," Phillips said.

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