Three Decatur residents lead the semifinal list of applicants to be Wally Terry’s heir apparent as city director of development, a position that includes oversight responsibilities for four departments and primary responsibility for residential and commercial development.
The city had 23 applicants, but seven pulled out of consideration. The list has been cut down to five. The city released the semifinalists’ applications in response to an open records request by The Daily.
After 10 years with the city, Terry plans to retire April 30.
The semifinalists are:
• Jacob Hurt, chief operating officer, Jackson, Michigan, Anchor Initiative. A resident of Crawfordsville, Indiana, Hurt leads the initiative that focuses on workforce talent attraction and retention. He graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington.
• Karen Smith, city planner, city of Decatur. Raised in New Jersey, Smith has been in Decatur's planning department since 1990. She graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
• Stevie Cox, town manager, Wallace, North Carolina. A resident of Clinton, North Carolina, Cox has been town manager in Wallace since April 2018. He is responsible for overseeing all city departments and an $8 million budget. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest University and earned a master's from St. Louis University.
• James Daniel Culpepper, project engineer, Daikin America, Decatur. A Decatur resident, Culpepper has been with Daikin since 2011. He previously worked as a mechanical engineer for Hargrove and Associates. He graduated from Auburn University.
• Jason Parker, master scheduler, Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville. A Decatur resident, Parker has been in the defense industry for 20 years. He graduated from Excelsior College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The council approved a committee to interview the semifinalists consisting of Council President Paige Bibbee, Councilman Chuck Ard, Mayor Tab Bowling, Human Resources Director Richelle Sandlin, Chief Financial Officer John Andrzejewski and Terry.
The interviews will not be open to the public, a step officials say is legally permissible because a quorum of council members will not be present.
Sandlin said Monday she is working to set up interviews with the remaining applicants for next week.
She said those who emerge as the top candidates, “unless it’s clear that there’s not someone who is a good fit,” will then be selected for public interviews with the City Council. Those interviews will be scheduled for the week of Sept. 9.
Bibbee said this selection process is the same process the city used to select a chief financial officer, and she believes it works.
“To me, it’s a great way,” Bibbee said. “It’s definitely more efficient.”
Councilman Billy Jackson voted against Sandlin’s recommendation for a committee that includes only two council members because he said it takes away some of the council’s responsibility in picking a director.
Bibbee said the process probably does dilute some of the council’s power, “but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Some council appointments of the past weren’t qualified because they were political appointments. This takes the politics out of the process.”
Councilman Charles Kirby said he’s OK with the process, but he is against hiring another director of development.
Mayor Tab Bowling said director of development is an important position for the city because the person leads the Building, Planning, Community Development and Engineering positions. He said Terry also works closely with other community leaders on economic development.
"Economic development is a real team effort in the city, whether he's working with Jeremy Nails (head of the Morgan County Economic Development Association) on industrial recruitment or Crystal Brown (with the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce) on retail and commercial recruitment," Bowling said.
The advertised salary range for the city director of development-to-be is $77,053 to $117,246, with a guaranteed promotion when Terry retires. The new director will move up another step, which has an $85,053 to $129,418 range and makes the pay equal to the other city directors.