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Norris will start process (again) to hire city manager

Norris City Council members have two busy weeks ahead, beginning next Monday, as they begin – again – the selection of an applicant to be the new city manager, replacing Scott Hackler, who resigned in June.

After their first chosen candidate turned down the job Aug. 8, the council voted to reopen the selection by advertising again for applicants, and the deadline for new candidates to apply is at noon Friday, Sept. 9.

Then on Monday, Sept.12, during the monthly council meeting, the council members will choose a few of the candidates to invite for interviews.

Those applicants will be contacted during next week and given the time and date of each one’s initial interview, which the council will conduct during special called meetings – all open to the public – at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 20-22.

Then at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, the council will meet in another special session to conduct second interviews with a further narrowed list of candidates, and by the end of that meeting, will determine which candidate will be offered the job.

Following that meeting, the chosen finalist will be contacted with the job offer, and the council will hold yet another special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, to receive and act upon what is hoped will be the candidate’s acceptance of the job.

The meeting also might require modifications to the job offer if special conditions are sought by the finalist.

Council members don’t expect a new city manager to take the job until sometime in mid- to late October, however, as the candidate may have to work out a notice at another job, and perhaps will need time to relocate to the Norris area.

As of this Monday (Sept. 5), there were 21 new applicants for the job who have applied since the city reopened the position with new advertisements in mid-August.

Norris Mayor Chris Mitchell said Monday that he had tentatively reviewed some of the new applications, and that some of those candidates do have prior city manager experience.

“I believe at least two have experience,” Mitchell said. “We won’t have a full assessment until after the deadline on Friday.”

When the previously selected applicant turned down the job on Aug. 15, the council voted during a special session that night to reopen its search by posting a new advertisement in various media.

That came even though there was still a pool of possible candidates left over from the initial period of advertising for a city manager beginning in late June. The council changed the job description slightly, and set the salary range for the second advertisement to $80,000 to $125,000 annually.

No salary range was given in the first ad, but the council later set the range for the first applicants to $75,000 to $110,000, and had offered their first finalist $108,000 a year.,

Council members also agreed to repost the job with a note in the ad that said, “Previous applicants need not re-apply.”

Then the council clarified that some of the initial candidates could still be in the running, even though they were not required to reapply.

At the start of the Aug.15 special council meeting, during which all council members except Will Grinder were present, the mayor handed out copies of an email from the initial top candidate, Joshua Ray, saying he would not accept the position.

After learning that Ray had turned down the job, Councilwoman Loretta Painter suggested reopening the search, rather than choosing from among the applicants who responded to the city’s initial advertisement.

“I think we need to start the process all over again, to see if we can attract somebody else,” Painter said.

Councilman Bill Grieve agreed, saying, “I believe we need to start again, and tighten the requirements.”

Also in favor of reopening the process was Councilman Robert Sain. He suggested tightening the requirements in a new advertisement to say that a bachelor’s degree is required, not just that the candidate “should” have a degree in public or business administration, as the previous ad said.

In its final draft, the new ad said the candidate could have either a bachelor’s degree or experience in the job:

“Candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in public administration, business administration, or a field closely related to municipal management or four [years] of progressively increasing city management experience, or any combination of education and municipal experience that demonstrates proficiency in managing a complex municipal corporation,” the ad read.

Painter also recommended raising the upper end of the salary range for the job to $125,000. Grieve initially spoke against raising the top end to $125,000, saying he felt the salary should be “$100,000 tops.”

The council originally chose seven of the 47 initial applicants to interview for the position, and then narrowed the choice to two before choosing Ray as the finalist.

Among the seven semi-finalists was Joshua Anderson, who is an Anderson County commissioner who has been chairman of the commission for the past two years. The council did not advance his application to finalist because he has no city management experience.

In the meantime, Norris resident Joe Deatherage has begun serving as part-time interim city manager until a permanent replacement is hired.

Deatherage is working for minimum wage, he and the council decided.

He also filled in as interim city manager six years ago for about three-and-a-half months.

“I was working eight hours a day then, but I’m going to be 89 years old this October, so I don’t want to do that again,” he said at the Aug. 15 council meeting.