Meet the finalists for Darlington’s city manager
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
One of the final four candidates for Darlington city manager is a pilot who has managed five small airports. Another — the only S.C. man in the group — once served as an aide to U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond. Another had a long career helping run a “hamlet” that’s an upscale suburb of New York with a population of 18,000. Another owns his own company that helps municipalities and nonprofits get grant money. They’ve all been government or financial administrators with long histories of managing complex operations, and one of them soon will replace former Darlington city manager Howard Garland, unless Darlington City Council opens its search up to more candidates and interviews more finalists. Council privately has been interviewing candidates to replace 11-year city manager Garland for weeks and has examined resumes from at least 67 applicants, with aid from the Municipal Association of South Carolina. Council possibly could make a decision at its next regular meeting July 13. But no one has publicly set a deadline for choosing someone to replace Garland, who left in late March after council voted not to renew his contract. It was described as a more or less mutual decision by Garland and by council members. The city recently released a list of four finalists for the job. Here is a closer look at those finalists, based on resumes that they provided the city and that the city shared with news media. They are in alphabetical order. ERIC BOSTWICK of Nashville, Tenn.: Bostwick says he has more than 25 years’ experience in city operations, as well as expertise in budgeting, “relationship-building” and strategic planning. He has served in many capacities for the city of Wantagh, N.Y., population 18,000, which is described as a “hamlet” and an upscale suburb of New York. Most recently, Bostwick has been city manager and chief executive officer for Wantagh. He has also served as Wantagh’s chief financial officer and director of operations for public works, public utilities and wastewater. Before that, Bostwick worked for the city of Rockford, Ill., as director of wastewater and the water department, and served as Rockford’s assistant town manager and chief operating officer. Bostwick holds a master’s degree in business administration from Lee College University of Cleveland, Tenn.; his undergraduate degree, in accounting, is also from Lee College University. (A photo of Bostwick was not available for this article.) DANIEL BOVIAN GERALD of Spring Lake, N.C.: Gerald says he has “vast experience” in municipal government, which includes finance, water, sewer, public works, environmental issues and public safety. Since 2010, he has owned DBG Environmental Group in Durham, N.C., a company that helps municipalities and nonprofit groups secure funding, such as grants. Most recently, Gerald was manager for the town of Spring Lake, N.C. (population 12,000). Before that, he was manager for the town of Princeville, N.C. (population 2,500); administrator for the town of Green Level, N.C. (population 1,500); water resources director for Spring Lake; director of public works and utilities for the South Carolina town of Andrews; a plant operator for the city of Durham; a plant operator for Woodard and Curran Co. in Durham; and an environmental technician for the Division of Water Quality in Raleigh, N.C. Gerald holds a master’s of public administration degree from North Carolina Central University (2007) and a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Savannah State University (1997). JOHN PAYNE of Florence: The only candidate in the group who lives in South Carolina and the only candidate who has never served as a city manager, Payne is well-known in the Pee Dee area. Payne says that he has 30 years of “diverse experience,” including serving as a financial advisor, company controller, financial manager for a medical group, media relations, grant writing, public speaking, strategic planning and legislative outreach. He currently serves as a financial advisor for Edward Jones Investments in Sumter. Before that, he was controller for Ramsul LLC of Florence, described as a “$20 million, four-business organization that includes commodity brokerage, warehousing and retail clothing shops”; finance manager for Beaufort Memorial Hospital; staff accountant with the Beaufort certified public accounting firm Mims, McDuff and Wood; grants administrator and affordable housing coordinator for Beaufort County Council; and, most famously, deputy projects director and staff assistant to Republican U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond for eight years (1991-99). Payne holds a master’s of business administration degree from The Citadel (2004), a master of arts degree in public policy from Regent University of Virginia (1990), and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Francis Marion University (1986). DENNIS SPARKS of Hopewell, Va.: Sparks says he has more than 30 years’ experience in government management. He currently operates Sparks Consulting, where he serves as a “management and aviation consultant,” teaches aviation safety and trains pilots. (He’s managed five small airports.) Before that, he was city manager for Silsbee, Texas (population 6,500); executive director for Lander County, Nev. (population 5,775); manager for the Village of Maywood (population 28,000) in Cook County, Ill. (the county where Chicago is located); city manager for Trenton, Ohio (population 9,500); city manager for Moraine, Ohio, a “General Motors factory city” where the population swells from 7,500 to 33,000 during the work day; acting administrator for Louisa County, Va. (population 24,000); fiscal officer for the Virginia Department of Corrections; administrator for Washington County, Va. (population 72,000); and administrator for Page County, Va. (population 20,000). Sparks holds a master’s degree in business administration and finance (1976) and a bachelor’s degree in business and law (1974), both from Virginia Commonwealth University.