The Red Bank Board of Commissioners will interview the fifth City manager candidate, Randall Hemann, of Salisbury, N.C., Nov. 30. Commissioners plan to make their selection by Dec. 6.
As four Red Bank city manager candidates sat in front of the city's Board of Commissioners, each expressed a desire to improve public perception of the city, reversing "bad press" about Red Bank's economic woes and its growing collection of lawsuits.
"I think there's a lot more positives than negatives," said candidate and Red Bank Fire Chief Mark Matthews. "Maybe we need to market it a little better."
During each 45-minute interview, the five commissioners focused questions on personnel management, government experience and economic growth.
Each candidate said he would prioritize luring more businesses to abandoned buildings and empty lots in Red Bank.
"You've got a big open commercial space, and it's been empty for years," said candidate Marty Von Schaaf, gesturing to a large lot behind the fire hall where interviews were being conducted. "And I have to wonder ... why?"
All candidates discussed growing the city's sales tax base to avoid higher property taxes.
"I will resign before I impose a tax increase, period," said candidate Jim Folkner.
Commissioner Greg Jones asked Folkner, who spearheaded the movement to recall Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, if he would leave a city manager appointment to run for Littlefield's position in August.
Folkner avoided giving a definite answer, saying he wanted to take the Red Bank job to "solve problems" in the city for the "foreseeable future."
Commissioners asked Von Schaaf whether he would give up his post as chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party for the manager job. Von Schaaf said the positions would not interfere with each other.
Commissioners peppered candidates with repeated questions related to personnel management -- alluding directly and indirectly to the firestorm of controversy that erupted after former Red Bank Police Chief Larry Sneed was fired in July. Since then, Sneed and four other police officers have filed lawsuits against the city, a pattern Commissioner John Roberts called a "black eye upon our city."
"How do you think you might handle working with five opinionated, type-A personalities, along with balancing working with department heads?" Jones asked candidate Randy Fairbanks.
"I would handle [personnel issues] very gingerly," Fairbanks said. "I think there will need to be very open communication on a very regular basis so no one will get blindsided."
City commissioners abruptly fired former City Manager Chris Dorsey at a meeting in October. Commissioners Jones, Roberts and Floy Pierce -- who voted for his termination -- all cited "personnel issues" as the root reason for their decision.
Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6673.