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Kingsport has found its next city manager

Matthew Lane • May 7, 2019 at 12:56 PM

KINGSPORT — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has found Kingsport’s next city manager.

After a nearly two-hour meeting on Monday, a majority of the BMA agreed to offer the job to Assistant City Manager Chris McCartt. More than an hour of Monday’s meeting was essentially a job interview, where McCartt offered his credentials, shared his vision for the city and explained why he wanted to be Kingsport’s next city manager.

“For the last 11 years I’ve been training for this job,” McCartt told the BMA at the end of his presentation. “It would be my honor to lead (the city) and work with the BMA to make this city successful.”

SEARCH FOR A SUCCESSOR

Last month, City Manager Jeff Fleming announced he would be retiring on June 21 after 35 years with the city, the last five as city manager. This set the BMA on the path of finding a successor, which they discussed how to do at a meeting last week.

The BMA can choose its next city manager however it wishes and is not bound by some formal process. Since McCartt indicated he wanted the job, city leaders asked him to return on Monday with his sales pitch for the job.

McCartt started off by talking about himself, something he said he’s not accustomed to doing. He’s a native of Jonesborough, graduate of David Crockett High School and East Tennessee State University and has been with the city of Kingsport since 1997.

He began his Kingsport career as a transportation planner in the Metropolitan Planning Organization, then moved on to MPO coordinator in 2001, development services manager in 2004 and the assistant to the city manager during John Campbell’s tenure in 2008. Since 2014, McCartt has served as the assistant city manager for administration under Fleming.

GOVERNMENT PHILOSOPHY

“One thing I learned as a transportation planner is the value of partnerships,” McCartt said. “For me, working in transportation planning, I had to have strong relationships with a lot of key partners.”

McCartt said he strongly believes in collaboration and strategic planning, is competitive by nature and said the most critical issue facing the Model City is economic development. He plans to operate in complete transparency, does not take a “silo” approach to management and if he wants to know what the employees in the trenches think, he’ll go to the front line to find out.

On the financial front, McCartt said he plans to continue with a conservative approach to the city budget and will look at ways to reduce the city’s dependency on debt for small capital projects. When asked about the possibility of raising property taxes in the future, McCartt said moves like that should be centered around a project for schools or quality of life, such as with the construction of MeadowView.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

McCartt said he thinks Kingsport is falling behind in economic development, which is why if hired as Kingsport’s next city manager, McCartt would make two early hires: an economic development director and a development coordinator who would interface with anything dealing with the development community.

“I’m competitive by nature and we’ve got to take a renewed sense of urgency with economic development,” McCartt said. “I don’t believe in standing still. Attracting investors to Kingsport ... we’ve got to find what works for us and bring those people here. It’s key and involves all of us.”

BMA THOUGHTS

Five members of the BMA were in agreement that Kingsport should offer the job to McCartt and directed Fleming and City Attorney Mike Billingsley to negotiate a compensation package for him. The BMA is expected to vote on McCartt’s appointment in two weeks.

Mayor John Clark: “I put a lot of stock in knowledge and ability to move forward with continuity, and I think Chris has that knowledge and relationships. I feel comfortable Chris is quite capable of picking up and continuing on.”

Vice Mayor Mike McIntire: “I’ve seen him get things done and done well. He’s a man of high integrity and is committed to doing things well. I have no doubt Kingsport will be blessed by his leadership.”

Alderwoman Colette George: “The last search was extremely disappointing to me with the quality of candidates who applied. I felt like it was a waste of time and money. I’m 100 percent on board with Chris being our next city manager.”

Alderwoman Jennifer Adler and Alderman Joe Begley both spoke in support of Kingsport going through a search process for its next city manager.

“I totally agree Chris is more than capable, but I’m fearful we’ve limited our diversity and inclusion of new people into our community. To make this region better, we have to make it more inclusive and diversified,” Begley said.

At the last BMA meeting, Adler suggested a limited, accelerated open search process for Kingsport’s next city manager.

“I’ve never been involved in a hiring process that didn’t have a competitive interview process,” Adler said. “I think the reason why you do that is because it’s an open process that makes the candidates better, it legitimizes the process and makes it clear when you’re choosing between alternatives.”

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