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Norris Council picks 7 candidates to interview for city manager

Interviews for the Norris city manager position begin Wednesday, Aug. 3, and will continue through Saturday, with initial interviews the first three evenings and second interviews for finalists on Saturday.

For the initial interviews, the City Council last Friday night chose seven of the 47 candidates who applied for the position to replace Scott Hackler, who resigned effective June 27.

Mayor Chris Mitchell had asked that each council member choose a few applicants they wanted to grant interviews to, and when all of their choices were listed, the total came out to the seven.

Councilmen Will Grinder and Robert Sain chose four each – with two candidates overlapping – while Mitchell picked Grinder’s four, and added three, two of whom were also on Sain’s list. The mayor added one who was not on Grinder or Sain’s list – Anderson County Commission Chairman Joshua Anderson.

No names were submitted by Councilman Bill Grieve, who said he would just go along with the seven the other three councilmen had already chosen

Councilwoman Loretta Painter was out of town on vacation and did not participate in the selection process.

Applicants chosen for initial interviews, besides Anderson, were Gregory Collins, Sarah Foust, C. Cory Jenkins, Joshua W. Ray, Phillip B. Robinette and William G. Schmidt.

Mitchell said some of those chosen for interviews have previous city manager experience, including one from Charlottesville, Virginia, and two from Tennessee.

Of the seven chosen for interviews, only Anderson and Foust live in the Norris area, the council members said. Anderson does not have any city manager experience, but has been chairman of the County Commission for the past two years. He is now a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

The first interviews with those seven applicants will be held during three special called meetings of the council, each beginning at 6 p.m. Aug. 3, 4 and 5. That will be followed by second interviews of the finalists during a special called meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6.

On Monday, Aug. 8, the council will meet at 6 p.m., just prior to the regular August council meeting, to make an offer to the finalist, the council decided earlier.

All of the meetings, including the interviews, are open to the public. But because of the legal issues involved with job interviews, the public will not be allowed to “engage in the interviews,” the mayor said.

Mitchell said the city should not pay travel expenses for any of the candidates to come to Norris for interviews. The council decided that any candidate living outside the area could opt for a video interview.

The mayor also said, “I suspect that not everyone [chosen] will want to interview.”

He said he expects interviews to last from 30 minutes to an hour each, and the council will have a list of questions to ask the candidates.

The council decided that it would not make the questions available to the applicants in advance of the interviews.

“To me, it’s as much that they need to sell themselves” rather than just answer the council’s questions, Mitchell said.

Also during last Friday’s special meeting, the council set the tentative salary range for the position to be from $75,000 to $110,000 annually, but left it open for negotiation if necessary to attract the preferred candidate for the job.

No salary range was mentioned in the advertisements the city posted for the position.

During a special meeting in late June, the council approved a list of qualifications for applicants that was included in advertisements that were placed through various media.

Among requirements for applicants as stated in the ad were at least a bachelor’s degree in business management or a related field, and experience in managing people.

The ad also noted that the city manager would be expected to work longer than 40 hours per week, and that the extra work would not include overtime pay.

In the meantime, Hackler continues to perform some city administrative duties for a maximum of 10 hours a week through the end of August, by which time the city hopes to have the new city manager hired and on board.

Anderson, a first-term county commissioner who is running for re-election on the Aug. 4 ballot, was among the first candidates to express interest in the job.

Hackler, who is 63, told The Courier News that he had experienced some recent health issues, and felt that continuing in the city manager position would put too much stress on him.