AUBURN, Ala.- After 25 years of service to Auburn and its residents, Auburn City Manager James C. Buston III will retire on Jan. 31, 2021.
In his early career, Buston served as a Peace Corps volunteer and was the U.S. Technical Advisor for Latin American Affairs in Honduras. He obtained a master of science degree from Auburn University before serving 13 years in the private sector as vice president in charge of software development for the New York-based Intermark Corporation and later as technology group chairman for the Tennessee-based R.U.R. Group.
Buston joined the City of Auburn in 1996 to create its first Information Technology Department. He later served in the dual role of assistant city manager and chief information officer for 11 years. During this time, he graduated from the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Buston was appointed city manager in 2017.
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. Another 32 Auburn companies expanded their existing operations.
In the most recent citizen survey, residents rated their satisfaction with the “value received for tax dollars and fees” 38 points above the national average. The City’s customer service also received high marks with 74% of residents surveyed satisfied with the quality of the City’s customer service, putting Auburn 32 points above the national average. A graduate of the Leading, Educating and Developing (LEAD) program through the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service of the University of Virginia, Buston has demonstrated a commitment to LEAD’s principles that empower city employees to better serve the public.
With better customer and city services in mind, Buston streamlined city operations in 2018 by reorganizing city departments into business units based on the services they provide. 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. These goals are reflected in the biennial budgets Buston presented to the City Council, providing $53.9 million in capital projects while maintaining a comfortable ending fund balance of over 25% and keeping personnel costs below 50%.
“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. I will miss his counsel,” said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. “The City of Auburn is better for his years of dedication to providing the best quality city services possible.”
In 2020, Buston guided city operations through unprecedented challenges. As the COVID-19 pandemic changed life in Auburn and throughout the world, he provided policy research and recommendations to the Auburn City Council and oversaw a workforce of more than 800 employees. 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. 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.
“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. “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.”