In less than five minutes, Red Bank commissioners unanimously chose Randy Hemann, of Salisbury, N.C., to be their new city manager during a special meeting Tuesday night.
The move came after a weeklong delay as commissioners called the decision "agonizing" and had no real consensus for their top choice.
The packed room in Red Bank City Hall resounded with applause after commissioners voted, but it could be days and a series of contract negotiations before the city has a final answer from Hemann, Mayor Monty Millard said.
Hemann has served 15 years as executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc., a nonprofit devoted to extensive revitalization efforts and economic growth in the city of about 32,000.
Hemann did not return calls for comment Tuesday evening.
Though commissioners repeatedly said during the decision-making process they wanted to hire someone who was local and familiar with Red Bank, they chose the only out-of-town candidate in their list of five finalists.
Millard said his mind was swayed by an outpouring of residents voicing support for Hemann.
"I had so many comments, emails, phone from Red Bank residents that they favored Mr. Hemann," said Millard, who said last week he was unsure of his choice. "I felt like as a public servant we had to do what our people wanted us to do."
Other finalist for the post were CPA Randy Fairbanks; Marty Von Schaaf, head of the Hamilton County Republican Party; businessman Jim Folkner, who was behind the movement to recall Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield; and Red Bank Fire Chief Mark Matthews.
Matthews, who attended the meeting, said he was looking forward to working with the new manager.
"It was an honor just to be a finalist," he said.
Residents at the meeting hugged and shook commissioners' hands after the meeting, thanking them for "doing the right thing."
"I believe Mr. Hemann will be instrumental in helping Red Bank turn around. This is the beginning of a renewal for us," said Carla Quinn, head of Red Bank Neighborhood Pride.
During his interview in Red Bank last month, Hemann highlighted $70 million in development in Salisbury since the late 1990s.
During a work session last week, commissioners said they would cap the new city manager's salary at $75,000, a cut from former City Manager Chris Dorsey's $90,000 salary.
But after the meeting Tuesday, most commissioners said they would be willing to re-negotiate the salary range and enter negotiations with Hemann.
According to Downtown Salisbury's 2010 tax records, Hemann is paid $78,200, along with $3,900 in additional compensation.
A Salisbury City Council member said in November that "it would be a tremendous loss for Salisbury if [Hemann] makes a decision to take a position elsewhere," according to the Salisbury Post.
Mayor Monty Millard said that if contract negotiations take place, they will be held privately with the city's attorney.
Any change in the salary range must be voted on by the commission during a public meeting.
Dorsey was fired suddenly at the end of a commission meeting in October. The three commissioners who voted for his ouster all cited "personnel issues" as their main reason for firing the six-year city manager.