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Starkville aldermen expand community developer search

 

Carl Smith

 

Starkville aldermen unanimously voted to expand the scope of the city's community developer search Tuesday to include national publications. 

 

The city previously took public criticism over narrow searches for then-vacant police chief and chief administrative officer positions. In the past, aldermen typically approved advertising for vacancies in local newspapers, a move some public commenters this year could impact the number and quality of candidates in various searches. 

 

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker suggested the move Tuesday, saying an expanded search would cast a wider net for potential applicants. The application window for the position closed last week, but the extension moves the deadline to 5 p.m. April 2. 

 

Starkville Personnel Director Randy Boyd confirmed Wednesday that the city is now advertising electronically with the American Planning Association and American Society of Landscape Architects. 

 

Walker said he would continue to push for expanded searches if the need continues to arise with personnel changes and departmental vacancies. 

 

"As our city grows and as the complexities of the issues we face grow, broadening this pool and others to give us the best candidates we can attract is very important," he said. 

 

Nine applicants applied for the vacant community developer job, one of the city's last unfilled, high-tier positions, Boyd confirmed last week. Current applicants will be considered as the search expands, aldermen said Tuesday. 

 

Starkville City Planner Buddy Sanders is believed to be the only internal Starkville candidate. 

 

Former Community Developer William Snowden tendered his resignation Dec. 2, becoming the city's fourth significant departure last year. Snowden was absent from work since October, when aldermen granted him six weeks of health-related leave. 

 

Before his leave began, the board tasked Snowden with a comprehensive review of the city's sidewalk and landscaping ordinances. The report was originally slated for fall and then delayed until February. 

 

Since the vacancy occurred, community development employees have reported to Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams, who previously gave an independent review of the sidewalk issue in which he hinted that the city could back a significant expansion project in the future, contingent on the availability of funding. 

 

Aldermen approved the ordinance reviews after Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn and Ward 3 Alderman David Little said the city's current sidewalk development district places unfair burdens on developers. 

 

Since aldermen took over in July, the city experienced wholesale changeover in numerous leadership positions. The board interviewed and hired new employees for chief administrative officer, city clerk and police chief - Adams, Lesa Hardin and Frank Nichols, respectively - since Jan. 1. In addition, the city also filled its chief municipal court clerk's job. 

 

The previous board of aldermen hired Snowden, the former Tuscaloosa, Ala., economic developer, as the city's first community developer in February 2013. His salary was set then at $75,000.

 

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

 

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