City administrator Joey Motley brings experience, passion to job
By Morgan Bryce
For Opelika native and city administrator Joey Motley, leading and serving come naturally.
The son of a textile company mechanic who worked for West Point Stevens, Motley grew up in and around mill culture.
At 16 years of age, Motley began working at the mill as a result of a co-op deal with the company.
“I graduated from Opelika High School in 1975, and I continued co-oping during my years at Auburn, pursuing my degree in textile management technologies,” Motley said.
Because of the agreements’ terms, Motley was only able to take classes during the spring semesters and eventually spent six years taking classes at Auburn. It was during his time at Auburn that he would meet his wife Dinah and marry her shortly before his graduation in 1981.
Motley would go on to pursue a full-time career with West Point Stevens, and thanks to his father’s past career at the plant, Motley quickly rose up the ranks. In his last few years at the plant, he worked as plant manager at the Lanett branch of West Point Stevens.
“I worked with West Point Stevens for more than 34 years and planned to work there until I retired. But when the company closed its doors in 2007, I had to go find something else,” Motley said.
Over the next few years, Motley worked for a plastics plant and a car dealership, which led him to start his own car dealership for a time. It was in 2008 that an opportunity arose for him to put his leadership capabilities to good use.
“When it came to deciding on running for council, there was a void in my life. I didn’t have a demanding job, and I wanted my life to have more purpose,” Motley said.
Former Councilman Jerry Teel announced in 2008 that he would not run again for the third ward city council seat. This vacancy was the push Motley needed to run for the position, so that he could serve the city he loved. However, Motley would face stiff competition, as he was among four other candidates vying for the spot.
“I obviously didn’t come from a political background, so I campaigned by going door-to-door, asking people for their vote, which I felt was a more practical, genuine approach to running a political campaign. I wound up placing second in the election, but the total number of votes separating us was so close that I ended up in a runoff,” Motley said.
In the runoff, Motley pulled out a victory, and he became the city councilman for Opelika’s third ward.
Throughout the next six years of being on the Opelika City Council, Motley said he gained invaluable experience that prepared him for something bigger. In 2014, Motley was faced with a tough decision about his future.
“When this job came available, I was obviously very interested. It came with a great retirement, and it would be the kind of work I would enjoy. However, in order to be eligible, I would have to step down from the council, which was going to be hard for me to do,” Motley said.
Within a short few days of resigning from the council and applying for the city administrator position, Motley was hired as Opelika’s new city administrator.
Motley said one of the major transitions of the job was adjusting to the change from voting on legislation to implementing legislation.
“At first, I definitely missed being able to vote on the stuff, but as time went on and I got involved in more and more collaborations with Mayor Fuller, seeing those plans go from being on paper to reality was very satisfying,” Motley said.
Because of Opelika’s mayor-council form of government, Mayor Fuller is, in a sense, the ‘’CEO” of the city. Motley answers directly to him.
Motley said he sees himself and his role as city administrator as someone who lightens the mayor’s workload.
“I try my best as city administrator to lighten the load on Mayor Fuller, and help him accomplish the goals he has in place for the city. All the departments in Opelika except Economic Development and OPS answer to me, and my responsibilities with them includes reviewing their budgets, work performance reviews and the inaction of policies within those departments,” Motley said.
Besides working closely with the city departments, Motley said he also fields questions from the general public, dealing with issues that might stem from a neighbor’s messy yard, a problem they see within one of the departments under his jurisdiction, or an idea that they had that they think could improve the lives of Opelikans.
Despite having such a high intensity, high pressure job, Motley said he is thrilled to see the progress that he and Fuller are making in bettering Opelika.
“We are seeing tremendous economic development here in Opelika, and with that has come an influx of jobs. I know how tough finding work can be, and I am glad that we are growing and expanding jobs available for people to find work,” Motley said.
Though much has been done, Motley said he feels that Opelika still has much left to improve upon.
“Mayor Fuller is a visionary, and he is full of ideas about how we can keep improving. I think that the city of Opelika is blessed to have a mayor and employees and responsible citizens who care and want to make life here better. That’s what we strive toward every day, improving and making Opelika a better place to go to church, raise a family and live.”