Chapel Hill to get interim town administrator

Friday, January 24, 2014

By Karen Hall

Editor

The Town of Chapel Hill could have an interim administrator at work before the middle of next month, according to discussion at a special-called meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Wednesday.

One of the BOMA's guests was Jeff Broughton from MTAS, the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service.

He came prepared with the names of two very experienced men, who would be willing to work with the town for up to six months while the search for a new permanent administrator is conducted.

Broughton has known both men for many years. One of them is Paul C. Boyer Jr., who retired from managing the city of Columbia about a year ago and now lives in Ashland City. He would be willing to commute to Chapel Hill about three days a week. Boyer does not want another permanent job as administrator.

In contrast, the second man, Austin Edmonson, would definitely like to apply for the permanent job in Chapel Hill. His most recent job was City Administrator of Somerville, in West Tennessee, but Edmonson is now living in Kentucky, his wife's home state. Edmonson would be willing to move to Middle Tennessee and work on a full-time basis as interim administrator in Chapel Hill, though not if this meant he could not apply for the permanent job.

"They both have longtime management experience," said Broughton. "The biggest difference is five days versus three days."

The position does not need to be advertised, Broughton told board members, because the interim administrator will be a contractor working for the town. They will be paying him like a consultant, and thus not responsible for benefits or any other extras. Broughton said this would probably work out cheaper than what they were paying former administrator Mike Hatten.

After extensive discussion, board members decided it would be unfair to choose one man over the other without meeting them both, so Broughton promised to try to get Boyer and Edmonson to Chapel Hill on Feb 3 or 4 for another workshop and special-called meeting at the end of which board members could hopefully make a decision about which man to hire.

The process of finding a permanent administrator will take much longer.

Broughton offered them MTAS's services for the search, and this was accepted. MTAS recently helped the City of Lewisburg search for and find City Manager Randall Dunn.

Broughton explained the search could take at least six months. The first step, he said, was for him to talk to each alderman and develop a profile of their ideal city administrator. This could be done and voted on by the March meeting, leaving April for advertising and May for interviews, background checks, and selection. By June the selected candidate could be offered the job, and in 30 to 60 days he -- or she-- could be at work.

"That's what I'm happy to do for you," said Broughton.

"It's probably the most important decision you will make as a governing body," he told the aldermen. "Your administrator is key to the success of the community."

"You sure do a lot," exclaimed Alderman Pam Elliott.

"And the best thing is, I'm free," joked Broughton.

"We've got to decide," said Mayor Carl Cooper. "Do we want a professional, or do we want someone who's capable of becoming a pro?

"Let's get this local thing out of our system," he continued, referring to the possibility of taking applications from Marshall County residents.

"They need a degree in Public Administration," said Alderman Marion Joyce. "Let's not take less than what we had."

"Right," said Broughton. "You don't want two learning curves. You want somebody who understands local government."

"I'd like to have local people a chance," said Alderman Houston "Bucko" Bryant.

"For right now, we need someone with experience," said Joyce. "I'd like to see them here tomorrow!"

Hatten was placed on paid administrative leave when he got into legal trouble earlier this month, and formally terminated on Jan. 13. Cooper was made interim administrator at that meeting, but aldermen seemed determined to relieve him of this extra work as soon as possible.

In other business, the group discussed a possible Community Development Block Grant for sewer rehabilitation with Lisa Cross of the South Central Tennessee Community Development District, engineer Will Owen of Griggs and Maloney, and the town's supervisor of water and wastewater Donny Groves. If the town gets the grant, it will be used to build a new sewer pumping station, thus halving the work load of the current single station, but results of the application will not be known until November, so new work would not start until more than a year from now.

Alderman also scheduled another work session next week in order to get to grips with loose ends left by the abrupt departure of Hatten. These include the contract for a cell tower; a new town website; and employees' use of town-issued cell phones.