âIâm ready to make a selection,â said Councilman Ronald Townsend on Tuesday. âIâm hoping we can go ahead and finalize this.â
The city council met three of the four candidates during the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday. The fourth was unable to be there.
The city council has been searching for a person to attend to its administrative needs. Last fall, the board invited its top pick to town, but he declined the offer.
âThis has been an 18 month process believe it or not,â said City Administrator Bill Reynolds.
Reynolds explained this week that the cityâs Human Resources Department, along with a selection committee comprised of city council members, has been handling the processââI stuck my head in at one of the meetings.â There were five finalist for the position, but one person withdrew.
The final candidates are Donald Kelly, an urban planner for the city of Pensacola; Terrence Milstead, PhD, a Pensacola native and assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Appalachian State University in North Carolina; Miranda Spradley, an office manager at the Wattsville Water Authority in Alabama; and Vanessa Watson, a teacher at Warrington Middle School.
âAny one of them could do the job,â said Townsend.
City Council President Sam Hallâs assessment was less glowing.
âIâm not excited about them,â Hall said Tuesday.
The council president said that he would work with whoever the board decided onââand be delighted toââbut also felt that the selection of candidates were not of the professional caliber he was hoping for. Hall attributed this to the salary cap of about $80,000.
âMy objection before we even started this process was that the price-point was too low,â he said, drawing comparisons to the city administrator. âBill Reynolds came in at $125,000. You look at that guyâs resume and itâs not just sterling, itâs sterling capped in gold.â
Hall recalled mentioning the position to an out-of-town acquaintance who works in a similar field. The reaction was unsettling.
âI said this is whatâs being offered and she laughed at me,â he said.
In late April, Hall tried to persuade his fellow board members to keep Elaine Magerâa longtime city employee who has served the council since Augustâon the job beyond her planned retirement, in six-month intervals for up to two years. The council wasnât receptive to the concept, but the suggestion did lead to a conversation about the ongoing search for an executive.
âQuite frankly, Iâve asked you guys about this and itâs like pulling teethâitâs hush-hush, itâs personnel issues,â Hall told Reynolds at the time. âI havenât heard anything from you guys, and Iâve asked specific questions.â
During that meetingâan April 23 Committee of the Whole meetingâReynolds said that he thought the board needed to better clarify the job description.
âI think the lack of clarity on this issue is because this body has not determined what it wants,â Reynolds told the board.
Councilman John Jerralds agreed, saying the council was âwandering around in the dark with a blindfold at night.â But Councilman Townsend felt the board had been clear.
âI think weâre all saying the same thing here,â he said at the meeting, suggesting that Hall approach Mayor Ashton Hayward personally about the matter.
Reynolds informed the council at that time that the HR department had been working on the issue, and had narrowed the field.
Councilwoman Megan Pratt said during the April meeting that she was âfrustratedâ to hear there was a list of finalists for the position and the council had yet to find out. Pratt, along with Townsend, Jerralds and Councilman Brian Spencer, comprise the Council Executive Selection Committee.
âThe committee was sort of disbanded and the administration has reviewed them and I for one would love to hear where everything is,â Pratt said in April.
The administrator said a slate of five candidates could be available âquite literally within two weeks.â
âI just need a thumbs up,â Reynolds said.
During this weekâs city council meeting, the board may select one of the four final candidates that have been offered up. Some council members filled out rating cards on the candidates on Monday, but the city has yet to make those cards public.
âNot all of them filled it out, some of them had a problem with it,â explained Mager.
Information on the finalists was also not readily available for public viewing. The information was not included in this weekâs agenda packetâbecause the matter was slated as a Discussion Itemâand after HR and various city staffers were unable to locate information pertaining to the final four candidates, Derek Cosson, the cityâs public information officer, was able to provide names and resumes.
Cosson is currently determining the dates of selection committee meetings. The HR department has been unable to provide that information as of yet.
When asked this week, Councilman Jerralds said the committee had been working âhand in hand, step by step with HR.â He could not, however, recall when the group met.
âIt was off and on, on an as needed basis,â Jerralds said. âCall HR and let them explain it.â
Councilman Townsend estimated the most recent committee meeting to have been a couple of months ago. He said committee members met twice collectively, as well as one-on-one with HR. He said he didnât recall anyone from the public attending the meetingsâwhich was held in the HR departmentâs officesâbut was sure the occasions were advertised.
Mager said that Suzanne Humphrey headed up the effort for HR. Humphreyâpreviously the director of the cityâs Civil Service departmentâsaid Tuesday that she had attended one of the selection committee meetings a couple of months ago. She said that no member of the public had attended that meeting, and said that HR Administrator Sherrer Kuchera had taken more of a lead role than she in the process.
Kuchera has been unavailable this week. Cosson is currently locating the minutes from the meetings between the selection committee and HR, as well as information pertaining to when these meetings were advertised to the public.
Councilman Townsend and President Hall said that the council executive candidates the board will pick from this week were derived from the original batch of candidates.
âThese were guys that were in that initial list,â Hall said.
Townsend said he was concerned that some members of council did not seem ready to select from the given lot.
âIâm so disappointed,â he said, referring to the boardâs reaction Monday.
Hall said he still felt that Mager would be the âbest initial candidate.â
âSheâs got 45 years experience. This lady is remarkable,â Hall said this week. âThat 7th floorâshe is sort of a focal point of what goes on in this city.â
The council will hold a special Committee of the Whole meeting at city hall tomorrow at 5 p.m.âa half hour prior to the boardâs regular meetingâin order to take up the council executive issue.
âcheck back tomorrow for a more in-depth look at the final selection of candidates for the council executive position.