Auburn City Manager James Buston set to retire in January

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By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com

Auburn City Manager James Buston III will retire on Jan. 31, 2021, the city of Auburn announced Thursday evening.

“My time here has been a wonderful journey, and I hope to have made a meaningful contribution to making Auburn a better place for all who live, work, visit and study here,” Buston said in a release from the city of Auburn.

Buston began his service with the city of Auburn in 1996 and was appointed to the city manager position in 2017.

One of Buston’s first undertakings with the city of Auburn was to create the first Information Technology Department, the release said.

Buston was a master of science graduate of Auburn University and served as a Peace Corps volunteer before starting with the city of Auburn. Buston also served as a U.S. Technical Advisor for Latin American Affairs in Honduras, was the Vice President in charge of software development for the Intermark Corporation and a technology group chairman for the R.U.R. Group.

Buston’s extensive history led him to a career with 25 years in the city of Auburn. However, during his time with the city, Buston was also studying and graduated from the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also graduated from the Leading, Educating and Developing program through the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.

His time studying did not hinder his work for the Loveliest Village on The Plains. In fact, residents of Auburn rated satisfaction in numerous areas of government higher than the national average, including value received for tax dollars and fees and satisfaction with Auburn’s customer service, the release said.

“During Buston’s tenure as city manager, over 1,150 new jobs were announced in Auburn’s industrial sector, and seven new companies located in Auburn,” the release said. “Another 32 Auburn companies expanded their existing operations.”

Before Buston took over as city manager, he served for 11 years as both the assistant city manager and chief information officer.

“The city of Auburn’s employees form a strong, high-performing organization with a well-deserved reputation for outstanding achievement and I was honored to lead some of the finest and most dedicated public servants in the nation,” Buston said.

Buston took over as city manager in 2017 and soon after revamped Auburn’s city departments into business units, which not only benefited the city but the biennial budgets as well, the release said. 

“This reorganization enhanced teamwork and communication throughout the organization by coordinating departments and programs to improve growth management, customer service, the city’s efficiency, the community’s appearance and the quality of city infrastructure,” the release said.

Buston’s biennial budgets placed $53.9 million in capital projects but kept the ending fund balance over 25% and the personnel costs below 50%.

His work with budgets was put to a test when the coronavirus pandemic hit the city of Auburn, along with the nation, in March.

“In that time, he led the city’s management team through the biennial budget process, providing support and recommendations to ensure the city’s continued financial stability through uncertain times,” the release said. “Through it all, Buston maintained a commitment to the safety and wellbeing of residents and city employees as well as the continued provision of quality city services.”

Buston continued his work as city manager as the city placed state of local emergencies into effect, the council met remotely and the pandemic continued to sweep the nation.

“I’m beyond thankful that Jim was here to provide a steady hand of experience at a time when we had a new Mayor, six new Council members and three key retirements of long-serving department heads,” said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. “I will miss his counsel. The city of Auburn is better for his years of dedication to providing the best quality city services possible.”

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