published Thursday, May 9th, 2013

East Ridge city manager pool down to zero

Chris Dorsey
Chris Dorsey
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Sometimes, no one wins.

Chris Dorsey, the last man standing in the East Ridge city manager job search, dropped out Tuesday. He told interim City Attorney Hal North he wanted to exit the race, a race that started with 82 applicants and ended with the City Council wondering what to do next.

Dorsey is also one of three candidates for Signal Mountain's town manager job, and some suspect he likes the idea of that gig more than the one in East Ridge. During a special meeting Saturday, East Ridge Vice Mayor Jim Bethune made a motion to pay Dorsey $120,000 per year, but Dorsey said he was not prepared to commit at the time. When asked if he was looking elsewhere, he declined to comment.

"That told me the answer I was looking for," Councilman Marc Gravitt said earlier this week. "It gave me the perception that East Ridge was having to go against Signal Mountain if we wanted it."

Even before Dorsey dropped out, Gravitt wanted to move on. But the other councilmen didn't. They wanted to wait for Dorsey's decision.

Dorsey's departure caps a frustrating month for the council, which is looking for a replacement for Tim Gobble, who resigned Feb. 7.

At the beginning of its search, the council sifted through 82 resumes. Of those, they thought nine qualified. Upon further review, only four did.

From there, candidates vanished. One accepted another job, and another didn't think East Ridge would be a good fit. Still another, Jim Coleman, of Lady Lake, Fla., didn't receive an invitation to Saturday's interview because he didn't respond to an email within four days. Some councilmen didn't think he was interested.

That left Dorsey.

What's next? For now, Eddie Phillips will remain interim city manager while also serving as public safety director.

In late March, the council formed a 10-person charter commission that will recommend changes to city rules. More than any other tweak, the council wants to alter the qualifications required of city manager candidates.

In 2008, a different charter commission pushed for an educational requirement, and now anybody who wants to become the East Ridge city manager must hold a bachelor's degree in public administration. The requirement is so strict that, should an applicant hold a master's or doctoral degree in public administration, he or she would not qualify. It must be a bachelor's degree.

Last month, that stipulation immediately shrank the pool of manager candidates from 82 to four.

"The people that were responsible for the city charter in 2008," Gravitt said, "they're the ones that screwed this up."

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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