Down to 4: Elizabethton Council narrows city manager candidate list

John Thompson • Feb 27, 2013 at 4:55 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The list of candidates to be the next Elizabethton City Manager was trimmed to four names during a workshop session of City Council on Wednesday.

The four finalists are:

• Jerome Kitchens, Elizabethton's finance director, who is now serving as interim city manager;

• Jeffery Morse, who has served as town manager of Valdese, N.C. since 1980;

• Steven Neilson, who has been development coordinator for Johnson City since 1995;

• Melissa Peagler, senior planner with the town of Morristown since 2004.

The commission also decided to interview the four finalists, with two being interviewed on Friday, March 15 and the other two candidates being interviewed on Thursday, March 21. The order in which the candidates will be interviewed has not yet been determined.

Pat Hardy, municipal management consultant with the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service, worked with Angie Lyons, Elizabethton's director of personnel and risk management, to go over all of the applications submitted for the job.

"We advertised nationally, well we advertised world wide," Hardy told the council members.

The result was 130 applications. He said this is not unusual. He said in the old days, potential applicants only submitted resumes when they were very serious about wanting the job.

"Then you printed your information on nice bond paper, put it in an envelope and mailed it. Now you just click and it is sent by email," Hardy said.

Lyons said only six of the applications was sent through the mail and some of those were followups to applications already emailed.

Hardy said he and Lyons each took copies of all the applications and sorted them into "yes", "no", and "maybe" piles. After that, Hardy and Lyons compared piles and worked together on the final recommendation of five finalists and three "good" alternatives. Three of the four finalists selected by the council came from the five selected by Hardy and Lyons, while Peagler was in the list of good alternatives.

Hardy said some of the qualifications used to narrow the list of candidates were education, experience and tenure. Many of the finalists have master's degrees in public administration or comparable field. He said one of the key items he looked for was tenure, has the candidate had a long tour of duty in one position?

The council members discussed some of the traits they were seeking in the new city manager.

Mayor Curt Alexander said he wanted a candidate with "fire in the belly", someone who would come in and immediately make a difference, not someone looking to serve a few years before moving on.

Nancy Alsup said she a candidate's interaction with the city employees was important to her.

Bob Cable said he wanted to see how the businessmen of the city felt about the candidates.

Richard Tester liked candidates who had a strong economic development and planning background.

On March 15 and 21, the council will interview the finalists. The interview process is expected to last 1 1/2 hours. Each council member may also have a private 15 minute one-on-one session with each finalist.

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