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Kingsport BMA narrows list of city manager candidates

March 18th, 2014 11:30 pm by Matthew Lane

Kingsport BMA narrows list of city manager candidates

KINGSPORT — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has narrowed down the list of people vying to be Kingsport's next city manager, choosing four candidates and one alternate on Tuesday with plans to interview them collectively and possibly individually next month.

Kingsport has been in the midst of finding its next city manager since John Campbell announced his retirement in December after nearly eight years with the city and more than 30 years in city government. Campbell's retirement is effective June 30.

The Municipal Technical Advisory Service (a state agency that advises Tennessee cities) has been handling the search for the Model City, narrowing down the 61 resumes received to 10 recommended finalists. Pat Hardy, the MTAS point-man handling the search, then asked each member of the BMA to rank their top five candidates.

Five aldermen responded via email within the past week, and Mayor Dennis Phillips revealed his top five during a BMA work session on Tuesday.

The five finalists are as follows:

  • Jeff Fleming of Kingsport, the city's current assistant city manager for development. A Kingsport native, Fleming has worked for Kingsport for nearly 29 years, starting as a planning intern and rising through the ranks to one of the top administrative positions in the city.
  • Jack Hamlet of Richmond, Texas, who completed his undergradate and graduate degrees at East Tennessee State University in the early 70s. Hamlet has 28 years of experience in city manager/administrator positions, including Rosenberg and Seguin, Texas, Farragut, Tenn., and Lake City, S.C.
  • Russell Hawes, the city administrator of Simpsonville, S.C., since October 2003. Hawes graduated from the University of North Carolina and previously served as the city administrator for Chester, S.C.
  • Sue McLaughlin of Mattoon, Ill., has just over a decade of experience in government management, serving as the interim city administrator of Lincoln, Ill., since February 2013. Previously, McLaughlin has been the administrator of Mattoon, North Aurora and Byron, Ill.
  • Dan Porta of Kennesaw, Ga., and the assistant city manager of Cartersville, Ga., since September 2001. Porta has been in city government for more than 20 years, previously as the finance director of Cartersville and Perry, Fla.
  • Alderman Jantry Shupe did not respond to Hardy's request and did not attend either the work session or the BMA's regular meeting on Tuesday.

    Reached by phone after the meeting, Shupe said Fleming is his top choice for the position and believes the BMA does not need to look outside the city for a candidate.

    "My thoughts are if we have qualified candidates within our system ... we don't need to look elsewhere," Shupe said. "I believe in succession progression. If no one is qualified internally, then it makes sense to look outside."

    The six members of the BMA in attendance on Tuesday selected Fleming as a finalist; five voted for Hawes and four voted for McLaughlin and Porta. Hamlet received two "yes" votes and one "maybe."

    Fleming left the room during Tuesday's discussion of the city manager search process.

    The BMA agreed on Tuesday to interview the top four candidates and designate Hamlet as an alternate in case one of the other candidates drops out or is taken out of the running.

    Hardy said he would contact each of the finalists today to authorize a management background check and a criminal background check, at a cost of about $250 each. Hardy said one or two candidates may drop out during the management background phase.

    At this point, MTAS has only done an Internet background review on the candidates.

    Hardy recommended the BMA interview each of the top four candidates collectively as a board, then hold a public reception afterwards, where city employees would be able to mingle and ask questions of the candidates.

    Then, if the BMA chooses, one-on-one interviews could be held between the aldermen and the candidates.

    The interviews are being scheduled for mid-April.

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