March 17, 2014 9:18:38 AM
Oktibbeha County's search for a new administrator could drag into April unless supervisors pull the trigger on a hire during their 5:30 p.m. meeting today at the county courthouse.
Heading into the past weekend, three supervisors said they were ready to conclude the process but, hinting at the self-described informal nature of the search, declined to say if they would make a motion to hire one of the remaining three candidates.
It's up to the collective will of the board, they said.
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery, District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams all acknowledged last week the tough decision ahead of them. If the board moves forward with a hire today, they must pick from a three-person pool of candidates with ties to governance: Oktibbeha County Comptroller Emily Garrard, former Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill and Ivory Williams, former Jackson deputy chief administrator for external funding and deputy director of housing and community development.
Across prior board meetings, two candidates, Union County Administrator Terry Johnson and AdCare Healthcare Regional Vice President John Thomas, pulled out of contention for the job. It is believed Johnson declined his February interview because they were held in open session, while Thomas told The Dispatch his current employer would work with him to decrease his travel frequency.
While none of the three supervisors would say if they supported a single candidate, Williams last week said the county needs a visionary who would go about governance with a business-as-usual mindset. Montgomery, however, hinted at his support of Oktibbeha County candidates, saying the local crop of applicants were both talented and could succeed as leaders.
Since former County Administrator Don Posey's December retirement, Trainer has repeatedly referred to the search process as an informal one without set deadlines or guidelines -- the board openly discusses how it wishes to proceed with the search at each meeting and then takes appropriate action if needed.
The board held public interviews on Feb. 17 in which supervisors delivered the same battery of overlapping questions to the candidates. Each contender promised to aggressively search for grant monies in the future while securing the county's internal funding and promised to lean on existing employees during their transition into office if hired. Internal personnel shakeups are not expected, per the three candidates' interviews.
Supervisors did not name a preferred candidate that day and delayed discussion until today since Trainer and Williams were absent from March 3's meeting.
Following board business, supervisors will hold a public hearing on the county's continuing comprehensive planning efforts at 6 p.m.
Mike Slaughter, of the Oxford-based planning firm Slaughter and Associates, will seek local input on how to proceed with the job, as previously tasked by the board.
Supervisors previously contracted Slaughter and Associates to develop a long-range plan that will help manage Oktibbeha County's future growth without setting land uses in stone. Board members previously said they would to develop a plan but not establish a zoning ordinance for the outlying county areas.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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