By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (October 10, 2016) – One thing is clear – Stephenville City Council will hold its third executive session discussion on the city administrator’s position in as many weeks on Tuesday.
The city council is expected to appoint an interim city administrator and eventually hopes to hire a long-term, permanent staffer. The position is currently vacant.
Mayor Kenny Weldon hopes the council will make an appointment this week. The next executive session discussion is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
In the meantime, City Secretary Cindy Stafford is holding the interim position.
City Administrator Pat Bridges served his last day Friday, Oct. 7. The council and other city staffers were aware of his potential exit several weeks before Bridges officially announced his resignation.
His replacement was discussed during executive session meetings on September 27 and October 4.
At the most recent meeting, Weldon said action was stalled by the council’s desire to meet an alternate candidate before making a final decision.
“What prolonged the discussion was a last minute option we discussed for the interim position,” Weldon said. “With Jeremy Allen, the council has a high level of confidence in him… but Mr. (Brady) Pendleton presented the council with another name not currently in Stephenville to consider. Several members of council are interested in meeting with him.”
Until that point it appeared Allen, current community services director, had been tapped as the lone finalist for the interim role. Other city directors were purportedly asked if they had interest in the job and declined.
Meanwhile, The Flash has learned that Pendleton presented ‘last minute’ options to at least one member of the personnel committee in late September.
“There was discussion (on September 27) that the council wanted to consider other options, so I brought three names to the council,” Pendleton said. “They were three people we could talk to if the council wanted to consider other options.”
Speaking directly with The Flash days after the meeting, council member Rhett Harrison said October 4 was the first time he had heard of any options.
“I, for one, appreciate having more options and feel Mr. Pendleton’s actions were both healthy and justified,” Harrison said.
Weldon the council just agreed last week to look at external and internal sources to find an interim city administrator. He said the council discuss the options Tuesday.
“We have a couple of names we will look at Tuesday to see if they are good or a better fit for the situation we now have,” Weldon said, clarifying that the council simply looking for a temporary appointment. “We are not looking to bring an interim in to change or fix anything. They would be there to keep things moving in a positive direction, facilitate decisions from the council and help in the process of finding a permanent administrator.”
Since speaking with Pendleton, The Flash has learned one of the names he presented to the personnel committee last month was Wayne McKethan. His resume includes almost four years as city manager in Granbury, where he also served more than six years as finance director after almost 30 years in the banking industry.
It’s not clear why McKethan was not previously contacted about the interim position prior to October 4, but it is apparent external applicants not were actively sought.
“The council and (city) staff were aware to the likelihood of the city administrator leaving weeks in advance,” Harrison said. “I believe this to be sufficient time to research the possibility of multiple candidates.”
Meanwhile, council member Jerry Warren is cautiously optimistic about the opportunity to speak with multiple candidates. He some council members were concerned about the ramifications of not proceeding with the internal offer.
“They’re worried about having egg on their faces,” Warren said, referencing ‘leaked information’ and concerns about media reports saying Allen was expected to be appointed interim before the October 4 meeting occurred. “I don’t care how it looks – giving due diligence to the issue and making the best decision should be the council’s only concern at this point.”
But, reaching a consensus is not always easy.
“We are a council divided, and that doesn’t look good,” Warren said. “But as council members, we were elected to represent the people. I wasn’t elected to agree with everything and everyone all of the time. I was elected to make what I believe are the best decisions for the city and its citizens.”
Harrison offered similar comments.
“My single object is to consistently do what I believe is best for Stephenville,” Harrison said.
He also said whether the council is filling the top spot at city hall on a short-term or long-term basis, it’s a vital role.
“Ideally, I believe there are many components for determining our city manager,” Harrison said. “Fundamentally, there are two essential elements in which to start, and I make no exceptions applicable to the interim manager.
“One is chemistry. The administrator should mesh well with the objectives of the citizenry. The other factor is experience. Stephenville is in a transitioning phase and brings about unique challenges that could prove to be tremendous for an administrator that is not seasoned.”
Still, Harrison said Allen is valuable part of the city’s workforce.
“I find Mr. Allen to be professional and sincere in his endeavors,” Harrison said. “His work ethics are superb, and he is an asset to this community. I do believe he could be a great city administrator someday, and that might come sooner than later.”
“Having said this, I simply want to consider viable alternatives due to the gravity of the situation. Decisions of this magnitude have a profound effect on our community. Adequate consideration should be devoted to the decision process, and it is extremely important to find a person the majority of the council can agree upon.”
Allen’s resume includes almost two years as director of community services in Stephenville. Prior to coming to the city, he served about five years as operations manager at the Cleburne Conference Center, almost six years as supervisor and facility coordinator for the city of Cedar Hill and held a few other roles in coaching and recreation.
Warren’s made a similar comment while reasserted the current objective.
“Jeremy is an asset to the city,” Warren said. “This isn’t about liking him or not. I will say it again, it’s about due diligence.”
Meanwhile, Weldon said although an interim has not yet been appointed, the search for a permanent replacement started October 4.
The council approved the employment of Strategic Government Resources to serve as the city’s executive search firm, with the effort being led by Larry Gilley, a former Abilene city manager who now resides in Granbury.