Goose Creek has selected a new city administrator who will take office this summer following a controversial legal battle between the mayor and a council member this past month.
Natalie Ziegler, the longtime city manager of Hartsville, will replace outgoing Goose Creek City Administrator Jake Broom in June. Her contract was approved and signed by City Council on Monday afternoon.
Ziegler has been in her municipal role in the Pee Dee city since 2010. She'll earn $180,000 a year in her new post, with the potential for a 10 percent performance bonus.
“It’s been really great serving Hartsville for the last 10 years,” Ziegler told The Post and Courier. “This seemed like the right time to make the move. We’ve done incredibly progressive work in Hartsville.”
In Hartsville, one of her successes was bringing more than 50 businesses to the Pee Dee city's downtown area. During her interview, she said she wanted to bring a similar vision to Goose Creek.
“I want to bring a sense of community to the area,” “I love the idea of creating a downtown in Goose Creek, a central location where we all can gather together.”
Ziegler's hiring comes after a lawsuit was filed March 6 by Goose Creek Councilwoman Gayla McSwain against Mayor Greg Habib and the city because she believed the process of vetting candidates happened out of the public eye.
McSwain was initially denied the candidate's applicants when she asked for them earlier this month because Habib said he was leading the search and would present finalists to council and wanted to whittle down candidates.
More than 30 people applied for the position.
Habib kept council informed of his progress by email. In one message sent March 4, he bragged about all the candidates having ties to the Palmetto State.
“I have identified 8 highly qualified candidates who I believe would be a good fit to our organization,” he wrote. “To determine this, I emphasized high level administrative experience and a connection to South Carolina. In fact, 7 of the 8 are in South Carolina now, and the 8th actually lived in Goose Creek as a kid.”
When a Berkeley County judge ruled from the bench two weeks ago that Habib needed to provide the applications to her and the rest of council, McSwain dropped her lawsuit.
Council had privately interviewed four candidates for the position.
“I believe we selected the best of the finalists presented to Council by the mayor," McSwain told The Post and Courier. "While it was unfortunate that I had to take legal action, I am pleased that it resulted in a more open and collaborative process. I hope that the hiring process for any future city administrator will include council from the beginning.”
Habib said there were no surprises with his selection.
"I presented four finalists to council and we chose Natalie," Habib said. "It went the way I planned all along."