As the city prepares to spend $35,000 on a nationwide search for a director of development, Council President Paige Bibbee wants city management experience added to already diverse background requirements.
City Director of Development Wally Terry plans to retire April 30. A former banker, Terry handles a wide range of duties for the city. He leads the Building, Planning, Community Development and Engineering departments. He works closely with other community leaders on economic development and tries to solve problems for business owners.
City leaders have discussed changing the city's management organizational chart in recent months, but the council majority agreed at Monday's work session that they want a director of development in whatever organizational chart they finally agree upon.
Bibbee said adding municipal management experience would position the city to quickly fill a city manager's position should that be required by resolution of a lawsuit in which the city is a defendant. In the lawsuit, former city employee Gary Voketz seeks to force the city to implement a form of government approved in a 2010 referendum, with an appointed city manager and a different framework for council and mayoral positions.
“If we broaden the qualifications, we’ll see what we might get,” Bibbee said.
Councilman Billy Jackson called Bibbee's addition to the position's qualifications "unrealistic," and he doesn't think the search will be successful. He favors, instead, hiring trained professionals to run each of the departments. He also believes the city needs more certified planners in the Planning Department to keep up with what neighboring cities have done.
"There is no such thing as someone who can oversee Community Development, Planning, Engineering and all of the departments they want this position to cover," Jackson said.
Jackson said the city benefited from having Michelle Jordan as a certified city planner in the early 2000s because she was also trained in community development. She later left for a job with the city of Huntsville.
Jackson said he has been impressed with the job Terry has done, but he believes previous councils "put the city in a pickle" when they cut the number of department heads and placed multiple departments under a single person to save money.
Terry was initially hired as an assistant to then-Mayor Don Stanford. Terry then was placed over economic development, and the Community Development and Building departments as part of budget cuts following the 2008 recession. Engineering was later added to his oversight responsibilities.
The city conducted a local search for Terry's replacement last summer. The committee, which consisted of Mayor Tab Bowling, Chief Financial Officer John Andrzejewski, Human Resources Director Richelle Sandlin, Bibbee and Terry, interviewed five semifinalists chosen out of 16 applicants. They were unhappy with the choices so they asked the council to reject the candidates and expand the search.
"The talent interviewed had some executive-level experience, but their experience wasn't broad enough," Sandlin said.
Bibbee said she believes the director of development position is a critical position and acknowledged they may have a hard time finding someone with Terry’s wide range of experience.
"Wally is hard to replace," Bibbee said.
But Bibbee isn't yet willing to lessen the requirements. Instead, she wants to shoot for candidates with broader experience. She pointed out that the City Council decided not to relax the requirements when it conducted a search for a CFO in 2017 and hired Andrzejewski.
“We could actually get what we want like we did when we hired John," Bibbee said.
Bibbee and fellow council members Kristi Hill, Chuck Ard and Charles Kirby said they will support a vote Tuesday morning on hiring a recruiting firm to conduct a nationwide search.
Sandlin said a national search would cost about $25,000 plus expenses, which she estimated would be $10,000.
The previously advertised salary range for a city director of development-to-be was $77,053 to $117,246, with a guaranteed promotion when Terry retires. The new director would then move up another step.
However, Terry plans to retire April 30 so Bibbee said the director of development's salary range now will be advertised at $85,053 to $129,418. This would make the pay equal to the other city directors.
With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, the City Council meeting was moved to Tuesday morning. The council will hold a pre-meeting work session on the seventh floor of City Hall at 9 a.m. to review the agenda for the meeting at 10 in the council chambers on the first floor.