Members of the city’s General Committee unanimously voted Tuesday to recommend the city move forward with hiring a city administrator.
The full Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 7 to 6 on May 28 to establish the position of a city administrator – a controversial vote preceded by nearly three years of discussion as well as the formation of a special committee to explore the issue.
Those who opposed the new position have argued it would take away many of the responsibilities performed by an elected mayor and put more control in the hands of the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen. A city administrator will report to the full board, and not just the mayor.
Proponents have said the move will take politics out of the day-to-day operations of the city.
During the May 28 BOMA meeting Ward 3 Alderman Arlene Cunningham admitted that she was “on the fence” about the decision to hire a city administrator – especially before a 2020 mayoral election.
So far, two candidates are running for mayor - current mayor Jamie Clary, who has opposed the city administrator position, and former Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Brenda Payne.
Cunningham moved to amend the ordinance at the time so that it wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2020. That amendment passed.
On Tuesday, Cunningham said she thought the city needed to move forward now with the hiring process. Her new amendment repeals the July 1, 2020 date enabling the city to move forward with a search for a suitable candidate.
Cunningham said the position, which has been estimated to pay around $150,000 a year, would still be funded in the 2020-21 fiscal year budget.
Municipal Technical Advisory Service consultant Gary Jaeckel told the committee he would expect the hiring process to take at least six months in order to find a suitable candidate.
“I feel like we need this extra time,” said General Committee member Jonathan Hayes. The other two members agreed. The city’s General Committee is comprised of Hayes, Ward 2 Alderman Scott Sprouse and Andy Bolt of Ward 4.
After the meeting on Tuesday Cunningham was asked by a reporter why she changed her mind on the timing of hiring a city administrator.
“After I saw the direction the city was going, I thought it was a good idea to get the search started,” she said.
Cunningham said that several things have happened within the last few months that illustrated in her opinion that a city administrator is needed.
Chairman of the finance committee, Cunningham has expressed concerns about the city’s recent audit as well as a $10,000 check Clary authorized to the Hendersonville High School band and chorus departments for a trip to London for economic development.
Cunningham also referenced a recent email from Republic Services, the city’s former garbage collection provider demanding payment for services rendered in June.
“There was a multitude of things that happened within the last few months,” she said. “The fact that we’re about to get sued by the former garbage company because we haven’t paid them for the last month of service, the new garbage contract debacle we were not privy to, I have a list going.”
“I tried to be fair and wait,” Cunningham added. “But for the sake and health of the city this needs to be started immediately.”
The amended ordinance will be voted on by the full board on first reading on Sept. 24.