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Town begins administrator interviews

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen decided on the process for recruiting a Town Administrator Monday, Nov. 23.

The Town will hold interviews for five final candidates Friday, Dec. 11.

Candidates will face hour-long interviews with three separate panels consisting of the Board, the personnel committee and the Town’s department heads.

“It’s a long day, a pretty intense day,” Melanie Purcell, Municipal Technical Advisory Service representative, said.

After that, the candidates will be narrowed down to a final two, who will face background and reference checks.

“It’s amazing what you can get from background checks,” personnel committee member Gary Schmidt said.

“I don’t want to select someone with eight DUIs or something,” Mayor Ralph McGill said.

The final five candidates were selected from the personnel committee’s “highly qualified” list. Two alternates were selected from their “next qualified” set.

Purcell and the personnel committee will vet interview questions. Each panel will select questions from the final set, and each candidate will be asked the same questions.

“So there’s no freelancing?” McGill asked.

“It’s not recommended. … Ask leading questions to get them to chatter,” Purcell said.

Alderman Jeff Elliott asked that Interim Town Administrator Gary Palmer, who was ranked as “highly qualified” by the personnel committee, get an interview spot.

“I’ve been very impressed with what he’s done,” Elliott said.

“I would recommend he be interviewed,” Purcell said.

Palmer ranked in her top eight, lower than the personnel committee’s ranking because of his relatively short duration of experience. However, Purcell acknowledged as interim town administrator, Palmer had a unique skill set.

Purcell disclosed she knew three of the finalists, counting Palmer. The personnel committee only was familiar with Palmer.

McGill said he wanted to be cautious, during the interview process, not to select an administrator who was “coming here to retire.”

Purcell agreed, but said some administrators would come from a larger town to a smaller one “looking for a home.”

“But you want someone with a real interest to be here and not just be coming here to get out,” she said.

By that same token, she said, the average tenure of a city manager is five years.

“You don’t want a lifer,” she added.

The energy with which applicants answered questions, and their ability to apply their experience to situations in Farragut, would be things to watch for, Purcell said.

“That’s the first thing they should do before they come here: learn everything about the Town,” Vice Mayor Dot LaMarche said.

Besides Palmer, other finalists were Dale Cheatham, Anthony Cox, Donald Crawford and Lynn Tully. First alternate is David Smoak; second alternate is Christine Venice.

The Town received more than 80 applications for the administrator position.


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