Red Bank city commissioners spent a couple of hours Tuesday interviewing the only two candidates still interested in the city manager position.
Commissioners narrowed the list of 21 applicants to five finalists in August, but since then three finalists have dropped out, leaving only Charles Beale and Randall Smith.
Beale worked in banking for more than 30 years and currently serves as the city manager and city recorder in McKenzie, Tenn., a town of about 5,000 located 60 miles north of Jackson. Red Bank has a population of just over 11,000.
Smith has 25 years of experience working with state governments and runs a company that helps private sector businesses form government partnerships.
The commissioners questioned each candidate for about an hour as they try to fill a spot that's been empty for nearly a year -- since commissioners abruptly fired previous city manager Chris Dorsey in October 2011.
Commissioners asked the candidates how they manage employees, how they handle budgets, what their experience includes and what they envision for Red Bank's future.
Beale emphasized the importance of making concrete plans for economic growth in Red Bank.
"We need a three-year plan; we need a five-year plan, and eventually we need a 10-year plan," he said. "We need to sit down and spell out where we want to go."
Smith said he thinks Red Bank's location on the edge of Chattanooga guarantees that the city will grow, but he suggested that he could help commissioners control that growth.
"I think you're going to need somebody to steer that growth and make sure it's the right kind of growth," he said.
As city manager in McKenzie, Beale said he managed a budget of about $6.3 million. Red Bank's annual budget falls just under $5 million.
Smith said he typically managed budgets between $20 million and $40 million when he worked with state governments in Tennessee and Florida.
Red Bank Vice Mayor John Roberts said he is looking for a candidate with strong leadership skills.
"We expect this person to be in charge of the day-to-day operations, and we expect them to be the leader," he said. "If you can't lead your people, you don't need to be in this job."
Beale said he sees his leadership role as similar to the captain of a ship -- ultimately responsible for steering the city in the right direction. Smith said he pictures himself as the coach of a team.