East Ridge is seeking a new city manager - again

East Ridge mayoral candidate Brian Williams smiles while chatting with supports on election night at Local Coffee of East Ridge on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in East Ridge, Tenn.

The East Ridge City Council will interview four candidates this week in anticipation of hiring its seventh city manager since 2009.

"We need someone who can stay long term so we can have some continuity of government," Mayor Brian Williams said. "We just can't keep turning the job over every two years."

The opening occurred when City Manager Scott Miller retired in August 2018 after serving for two years. Williams said the decision was made to not fill the position until after the November 2018 election, which resulted in his election as mayor and two new council members.

photo City manager Scott Miller says the city council should have a public hearing on the issue prior to the start of a Housing and Redevelopment Authority Community Info Meeting.

The council incorporated the duties of director of city services into a new assistant city manager position on Nov. 2 and appointed Kenny Custer to the position.

"The resumes had been sitting here for quite a period of time because we collected them before the election," Williams said. "We knew we would have a new mayor and new council members, and that kind of change can make candidates uneasy. But, it's time to find the right person for East Ridge."

The four candidates to be interviewed are Chris Dorsey, the city administrator of Sparta, Tennessee, who lives in Hixson; Caryn Miller, former city manager of Millersville, Tennessee; Lyndon Bonner, former county administrator of Jackson County, Florida; and David Milliron, city manager in Hogansville, Georgia.

Williams said the new city manager's salary would be "around $110,000 and similar to what [Scott] Miller was paid."

The time and location for the public interviews will be announced when all four have been confirmed, he added. He also said residents will be able to submit questions to East Ridge News Online, and its editor, Dick Cook, will ask questions of the candidates.

"The council wants the public to be involved," Williams said. "And having our local media receive the questions, eliminate duplication and then ask them helps the process. We are not going to have a firm time limit for the interviews, but it can't be open-ended. I think we will get them done in an hour or so."

The new city manager will be the seventh in East Ridge since 2008. Others who have served in addition to Miller are David Mays, Curtis Adams, William Witson, Tim Gobble and Andrew Hyatt. The city also had two interim city managers since 2008.

Dorsey is the only candidate with local connections, having served as city manager of Red Bank for six years and Signal Mountain for eight months. Dorsey turned down the city manager position in East Ridge before accepting a position with Signal Mountain in May 2013.

The council engaged the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service to help with evaluating the pool of candidates. The agency was created in 1949 and provides municipal governments in areas finance, legal, technical and municipal management. It scored the original pool of eight candidates in the areas of education, experience, resume, professional development and similarities to the job. The council reduced the number to be interviewed to six in January, but two candidates recently took new positions. Out of a possible high score of 32 on the scoring metrics, Bonner scored a 30 while Dorsey, Miller and Milliron scored a 28.

According to a 2003 study the agency conducted, about 110 municipalities in Tennessee use the council-city manager form of government. The average tenure of a city manager in Tennessee is six years, according to the report.

Williams, a business analyst for a software company who was elected to the council in 2016, won the mayor's seat with 64 percent of the November vote. In addition to Williams, other council members are Jacky Cagle, Andrea Witt, Mike Chauncey and Esther Helton, who also serves East Ridge as a state representative in the state General Assembly.

East Ridge, with a population of 21,118, is the largest of nine, smaller municipalities in Hamilton County.

"We work for the citizens," said Williams, who has lived in East Ridge since 1997. "We need to wrap up this process, and if we don't find the right person for East Ridge then we will look further."