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Supes balk at CAO hire


Carl Smith



Oktibbeha County supervisors tabled a request by board vice president John Montgomery to discuss the ongoing administrator search behind closed doors after an almost-two hour public input session on comprehensive planning. 


The three remaining finalists -- Oktibbeha County Comptroller Emily Garrard, former Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill and Ivory Williams, Jackson's former deputy chief administrator for external funding and deputy director of housing and community development -- will not discover their candidacies' fates until at least early April. 


Montgomery, who previously told The Dispatch he was ready to move forward with the search process, reiterated his desire to at least discuss personnel matters behind closed doors after other supervisors showed no appetite to touch the issue after Monday's lengthy meeting.  


District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard suggested the matter be brought up at the board's first April meeting, noting that supervisors were approaching their third hour of tending to county business. The board convened its regular session at 5:30 p.m., began its public hearing about 30 minutes later and re-entered its original session about 8:15 p.m. 


Board President Orlando Trainer suggested supervisors handle the discussion in open session after Montgomery said county representatives had plenty of time to digest the candidates February interviews and their respective background checks. 


"It's fair to let them know where we stand," Montgomery said. 


Supervisors voted 3-2, with Montgomery finding support from District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson, to table the executive session request. Montgomery then asked if board members would consider the discussion there at the table, but again Howard said the board would deal with the matter next month due to time constraints. 


Since former County Administrator Don Posey retired last year, supervisors have repeatedly referred to the search as an informal process, one without set timetables or guidelines. Howard noted the lack of a timetable in his reasoning to the board and public. All three candidates sat through the combined three-hour meeting Monday. 


Montgomery showed his frustration with the process and eventually apologized to Garrard, Spruill and Williams "for the county dragging its feet" with a hire. 


Supervisors are expected to move forward with the remaining three candidates in April and not re-advertise the position. 


The pool of potential county administrators decreased by two since February after 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. 


None of the five county supervisors have named a preferred candidate, but Montgomery previously hinted at his support of Oktibbeha County candidates -- Garrard and Spruill -- when he said the local crop of applicants were both talented and could succeed as leaders. 


It is unknown if the board will continue to trim the candidate list to two applicants or hold further interviews after naming a preferred candidate. 


In their February interviews, the remaining three applicants all promised not to shake up county governance with personnel moves, instead saying they would lean heavily upon the knowledge of those who work for the board of supervisors. 


Posey retired with almost 20 years of service as county administrator under his belt.


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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