A former county administrator who also spent a decade as a city planner in Detroit, Mich., has been picked to be Hendersonville’s first city administrator.
Carmen Davis, who served for nearly 10 years as the county administrator in Hinds County, Miss., until a new Board of Supervisors voted her out earlier this year, was appointed to the newly created position by a 9 to 4 vote on Tuesday.
The appointment by the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen via Zoom followed a nearly two-hour discussion about the problems the city is having with Waste Pro, the company responsible for trash pick-up.
The discussion, full of finger-pointing and political posturing, highlighted the heated political climate Davis will enter just three months before a mayoral election in November.
The creation of a city administrator position itself has been controversial. The city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 7 to 6 last May to create the position, placing City Hall’s day-to-day operations in the hands of someone who answers to the full 13-member BOMA instead of a mayor who is elected at-large.
Interim City Administrator Dave LeMarbre, the city’s former parks director, and current Mayor Jamie Clary have clashed several times both publicly and privately over the last several months with the majority of BOMA backing LeMarbre.
Clary, who is serving his first term as mayor, faces former Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce President Brenda Payne in November. Payne has received either financial backing or endorsements from many of the aldermen who voted to create the city administrator position, as well as LeMarbre.
Board members briefly discussed Davis’s merits on Tuesday before her appointment.
Both she and David Strahl, an interim village manager from Schiller Park, Ill., were interviewed by BOMA via Zoom on July 20. Each also met with city leaders privately on July 16. They were chosen as the final two candidates by a steering committee earlier this year.
There was little mention of Strahl on Tuesday as Ward 4 Alderman Steve Brown moved to confirm Davis.
Davis no stranger to political turmoil
“Some of us have made some phone calls, talked to some people, done our due diligence,” said Brown.
“I’m fairly comfortable that either candidate could do the job, but I’m a little more comfortable with one than I am the other simply because of a couple of answers and time [on the] job."
Brown’s motion to approve Davis was seconded by Ward 1 Alderman Peg Petrelli.
Andy Bolt, who also represents Ward 4, said he has talked to several people in Mississippi who have worked with Davis and are familiar with her work.
“I’ve done quite a bit of due diligence on this,” said Bolt. “I’ve called many different sources. Some that will vote against this have not done that.”
Bolt said that those who worked with Davis described her as “very, very professional” and someone who“can get along with anybody.”
Bolt also noted that Davis is no stranger to political turmoil.
“She’s lasted through multiple elections… in what some would call a nasty political environment,” said Bolt. “In fact in 2010 she was the third city administrator appointed in that particular year - and she lasted 10 years.
“Others said she just did a terrific, consistent job,” added Bolt who called for the question.
Without any more discussion about Davis’s merits, board members voted 9 to 4 to appoint her.
Clary, Ward 5 Alderman Darrell Woodcock, and Ward 6 Aldermen Eddie Roberson and Jim Waters voted against her appointment.
Board members spent more time discussing the committee who would negotiate Davis’s contract than they did on her appointment with Clary making a motion that he be on that committee.
In the end, board members named newly appointed Human Resources Director Chris Taylor chairman of a negotiating committee that includes Clary and LeMarbre. City Attorney John Bradley and MTAS Advisor Gary Jaeckel will advise the committee on negotiating points that will include the term of Davis’s contract, severance, her salary and leave benefits.
Davis’s contract will be approved by BOMA at the Aug. 11 meeting, and no later than Aug. 25, board members agreed.
Davis held the Hinds County, Miss., post from Sept. 2010 to Jan. 2020. She was a city planner in Detroit, Mich., from June 1993 to July 2001 and from Jan. 2007 to Aug. 2009 prior to that. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from Wayne State University in Detroit, as well as a Bachelor’s of Art degree in Urban Planning and Geography from the same university.
During her Zoom interview, Davis told aldermen the position would suit her more than 20 years of experience in municipal government.
“This is definitely fitting for my role as a public servant,” she said. “Because I want to serve the community as I’ve always done.”
BOMA has appropriated a salary range of $130,000 to $150,000 for the new position.