After a national search, Johnson City has narrowed its hunt for a new city manager to five candidates.

The finalists are: Cathy Ball, assistant city manager of Asheville, North Carolina; Sarah Hannah-Spurlock, nighttime economy manager of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; David Johnston, former city manager of Covington, Kentucky; Chris Lindsey, assistant city manager of Westminster, Colorado; David Strahl, interim village manager of Schiller Park, Illinois.

The city will hold a series of interviews and forums with the five candidates on Sept. 28-29.

Over the course of two days, the city said in a press release, the finalists will go through individual and group interviews, meet with city staff, tour Johnson City and make presentations to the commission.

The public is invited to attend a meet-and-greet reception with the candidates Tuesday, Sept. 28, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Langston Centre, 315 Elm St.

The board has the power to appoint the city manager, who runs the day-to-day operations of city government. The board hopes to have a new manager under contract by the end of October.

In March, City Manager Pete Peterson announced plans to retire at the end of 2021. Peterson has worked for the city for 31 years, starting as a development specialist in 1991. He was named assistant city manager in 1995, interim city manager in 2004 and assumed the post permanently in 2005.

In May, the commission hired consulting firm Strategic Government Resources to conduct the search for a new city manager.

Mayor Joe Wise said the commission is keenly aware that the city is in a time of transition. As of April, eight of Johnson City’s 18 directors qualified for retirement.

“We have a long-time city manager retiring,” Wise said. “We have a significant number of department heads that could in the near future retire, and so we need a city manager that can bring the expertise and the leadership to really move Johnson City into the next chapter.

“And that means maintaining what’s working well and fulfilling those critical services that citizens and stakeholders look for,” Wise continued, “but it also means looking reflectively at how we might do things better or more efficiently or more responsibly. And so it’s really a unique opportunity in the life of the city to address what I would call corporate culture.”

Wise said the five candidates all have a breadth of experience in various aspects of city government.

They’ve also come from cities that are similar to Johnson City.

“We’re a full-service city,” Wise said. “... Not every city runs a transit system, not every city has a water system, not every city has police and fire, not every city has a school system. And when you start to look at Johnson City from the scope of our budget, you really need somebody who’s pretty conversant in a wide range of highly regulated endeavors.”

Who are the candidates?

Johnson City has posted the resumes for all five candidates at www.johnsoncitytn.org/managersearch.

Cathy Ball has worked as assistant city manager in Asheville for about eight years. She served as interim city manager while the city council searched for a permanent administrator.

She has also worked as the public works director, director of engineering and transportation and as a city engineer for the City of Asheville. She’s worked for Asheville since 1997 and previously spent nine years as an assistant city engineer for Greenville, South Carolina.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock has worked as the nighttime economy manager for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, since 2018. She also served as assistant city manager of Key West, Florida, from 2014-16 as well assistant city manager of Sunrise, Florida, from 2009-2012.

Previously, she worked as assistant town manager of Palm Beach, Florida, from 2003-2009.

David Johnston served as city manager of Covington, Kentucky, from 2017 to 2021. According to the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Johnston resigned from the position in June. Before that, he served as the city manager for Maple Valley, Washington, from 2009-2016.

He also worked as the village administrator for Rantoul, Illinois, from 2004-2008, town manager for Westfield, Indiana, from 2000-2003 and village administrator for Coal City, Illinois, from 1997-2000.

Chris Lindsey has served as assistant city manager and the policy and budget manager for Westminster, Colorado, since April 2016. Before that, he worked briefly as the budget manager for Jefferson County, Colorado, and as a budget analyst for Jefferson County for about five years.

David Strahl has been the interim village manager of Schiller Park, Illinois, since January 2019. He previously served a year as city administrator in O’Fallon, Missouri, and assistant city manager of Mount Prospect, Illinois, from 1993-2016. He served briefly as acting village manager in Prospect from 2014 to October 2015.

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David Floyd covers Johnson City government, Johnson City schools and Ballad Health for the Johnson City Press. He grew up in East Tennessee and graduated from ETSU, where he was the executive editor of the school paper.

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