City manager could be named today

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lewisburg councilmen might reach a decision this evening on who to hire as the city's next manager, according to at least one of the five who get to vote on the personnel decision.

"I'm looking for experience," Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. said Tuesday as he's already selected a few applicants who he will advocate for the job vacated last fall by retired manager Eddie Fuller.

The council could reach a decision "and an alternate," Whitehead said, noting that with an agreement reached with the first choice, the top candidate could be hired before noon Thursday.

In order of the interviews conducted during the last few weeks, the candidates are Trigg Cathey, Barbara Ann Bridgewater, David Orr, Jeffery England, Charles Beal, Alan Grindstaff, James Pennington, Gary Rawlings and Alton Brown.

Cathey is a member of Lewisburg's Beer Board, holds an engineering degree, has worked at Teledyne and advocates industrial redevelopment for the city.

He's also worked at Saturn, and understands the property tax breaks offered through Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreements.

Like Cathey, Bridgewater's interview was reported here on Jan. 12.

She's worked as a stormwater manager, a position the city needs to fill, but she returned to school to become a city manager.

Bridgewater lives in Greenfield, Tenn., has a bachelor's degree and was the only woman interviewed for the job.

Orr is a former banker in Lewisburg who wrote to the city in his application saying that he's willing to work for $10,000 less than what Fuller was paid. The next manager's salary could be as high as $80,000, approximately what Fuller was paid.

Applicants were asked about their ability to work with a variety of people and Orr said his approach is to be able to walk with kings but not lose the common touch.

He's been the president of the Chamber of Commerce here and he indicated that being city manager may be an extension of that.

Asked what he'd do if asked for favors, Orr said his father worked for Gov. Frank Clement and advised, "Just because people are nice to you - don't take it personally."

Orr also revealed that at one time he's been asked to run for mayor, but he soon realized those asking wanted him to help them.

Orr was a candidate for county commission last year.

England is originally from Lewisburg. As a certified public accountant, he's familiar with a variety of ways to cut expenses.

In response to a question asked of all applicants, England noted that sometimes being diplomatic can backfire, so he would also be able to "tell it like it is" if he had a difficult message to deliver to someone.

His management style is to let employees do their jobs as long as the work is being accomplished.

He asked when the next manager might start work and was told it could be in the first half of February, but that the council really didn't know at that point.

Beal is the city recorder at McKenzie, Tenn., a town of 5,300 where some 550 students at Bethel University were recently added to the count.

Councilman Robin Minor asked applicants who they'd consult when faced with a difficult problem. While all said they'd ask experts, Beal seems to have been the first to say he'd consult the mayor and councilmen.

Beal said a city manager relies on "front line managers." He seems to dislike "micromanaging," and saw "honesty" as the chief part of a relationship between coworkers.

He saw approximately $72,000 as a reasonable salary for his needs.

Experienced applicants know how to write grant applications and councilmen seemed interested in learning from the applicants about other towns' experience with industrial recruitment.

Grindstaff has been a city manager for about 25 years. His father was an Air Force pilot.

While managing Ephram, Utah, he realized the town was without policies and procedures and that without them, councilmen were individually liable.

When he started managing one town, he found 16 such things to work on and when they were accomplished, he gave the city a six-month notice and was looking for his next job.

He's counseled department managers to refrain from buying supplies until budgeted money is available, he said.

Grindstaff "didn't take a raise for three years" during one job when economic times were hard. During that time, employees were granted a one-percent raise.

As for the question about being diplomatic or telling it like it is, Grindstaff replied, "I'm not going to color coat it. If I don't, [tell like it is] how can I expect employees to tell it straight?

Pennington is from Kentucky and ran Hartsville, S.C. for more than eight years. He's run other towns.

Asked about dealing with tight budgets, he said, "The last thing you want to do is raise taxes."

Pennington, like other applicants, provided insight for the councilmen, noting that local governments always come in third during an economic recovery.

Rawlings, of Charleston, W.Va., once ran a Michigan town when inflation increased six times more than the town budget.

Like all applicants, Rawlings said he'd be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if necessary.

As for his management style, he said, "You have to be a collaborator."

He doesn't like micromanagement and would consult elected officials on various difficult issues.

Rawlings explained an environmental issue faced by his West Virginia town. It includes issues faced by Lewisburg.

He also noted reductions in property values and how a city responds.

Brown is a native of Middle Tennessee and has worked for the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.

He would seek ways to economize other than layoffs because doing so is practically sending them to bankruptcy. "You really shouldn't have nonessential personnel."

Brown believes in an open and direct management style. He believes in the chain of command and he doesn't believe in micromanaging.

Brown complimented Lewisburg's Web site and said he's been following it for some time.