“Bill was going to retire in January, but we decided to move on; to give him the opportunity to take an early retirement with incentives and start the transition now,” said Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb, who chairs the NWGRC board of directors.
Babb said Steiner has agreed to help with the search for a new director, which he hopes to have on board by the end of the year.
The Regional Commission acts as a resource and grant conduit for state and federal programs in the 15 northwestern counties — Gordon, Floyd, Chattooga, Bartow, Polk, Walker, Catoosa, Dade, Paulding, Haralson, Whitfield, Murray, Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties.
Allen Poole, the Haralson County commission chairman who heads the NWGRC’s personnel and finance committee, said a job description for the director’s slot is being crafted.
“We’re looking at what it actually takes to qualify for a position of this magnitude,” Poole said. “This is a strange beast. It’s not a city. It’s not a county. We’ve got to have somebody familiar with federal, state and local policies and procedures.”
Steiner, who took over in 2005, launched several major regional initiatives. A revolving loan fund to rehabilitate foreclosed properties, a $26 million high-speed broadband network and a public-private water partnership all took shape during his watch.
But the organization also was beset by financial reporting problems, partially stemming from the state-mandated merger of the 10-county Coosa Regional Development Center and five-county North Georgia RDC.
The 2012 audit was nearly a year late, putting millions of dollars of workforce training and elderly assistance money at risk. An outside consultant was brought in after the finance director resigned, and the subsequent departmental reorganization sparked a labor complaint.
Steiner could not be reached for comment, but he has said before that he plans to take a break before deciding what he’d like to do next.