Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary is planning to nominate Paul Harbsmeier, police commander, as interim chief of operations at the next Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
BOMA voted to create the COO position last month with the intent that it would be permanently filled by or before March 31 when the current City Administrator’s contract is up. The resolution, if it passes, would terminate the interim City Administrator immediately.
The COO ordinance had a provision for who would be nominated in the absence of the COO. Any of the nine department heads would be eligible, and the mayor would have 60 days to bring a replacement before BOMA.
Clary said that he felt like the interim part of the ordinance did not apply to this situation because a COO had not left the position.
“There's a difference to me because if the COO leaves, we're in an emergency situation,” Clary said. “We're not in an emergency situation right here, meaning we have guidance of the City currently.”
Clary said probably the most important reason for having an interim COO is that Hendersonville needs someone full-time.
“Currently the city is run by a person who is part time, and that's not adequate,” he said.
Clary got to know Harbsmeier when he was interim director of the Sumner County Emergency Communications Center. After the first director didn’t work out, Harbsmeier filled in while he was still working full-time at the police department.
“When Paul came in, he helped us define what we need as a director, started the application process, the recruiting process and gave us a shortlist,” Clary said.
Clary said he feels like Harbsmeier could fill a similar role for Hendersonville right now.
Harbsmeier’s salary would be transferred from the police department to the executive department. He would be given a raise due to increased responsibilities, but all of the money would come from the police department and would not increase spending, Clary said.
Harbsmeier, who is well-liked according to several aldermen, was planning to retire in April anyway. Clary’s resolution says Paul would be interim COO through the end of April at the latest.
Harbsmeier cannot apply or be considered for the actual COO position, according to the ordinance.
Harbsmeier has worked for the Hendersonville Police Department for 40 years. According to his LinkedIn, he graduated from John Overton High School and spent a year at Middle Tennessee State University.
However, Harbsmeier does not meet the minimum qualifications for COO, Clary said. He could not get into specifics.
He did point out that current interim CA Dave LeMarbre did not meet the qualifications for that position either. Again, he couldn’t get into specifics.
The nomination was supposed to be voted on in the General Committee and BOMA meetings last week, but Clary pulled it from the BOMA agenda.
“We just decided to abide by that two-week rule,” he said. He was referring to a rule that allows two weeks between when legislation is heard in committee and when it comes before the full BOMA.
BOMA has waived this rule several times recently, including in the creation of the COO position.
Ward 4 Alderman Steve Brown, chairman of the General Committee, declined to discuss the issue in his committee last Tuesday.
Applications for the COO position were due Friday, Feb. 12. The position was open for two weeks.
Clary said he has not had time to review all the applications, but that even if he did, he would still be nominating an interim COO to make sure the City has someone full-time.
The resolution, which only requires one reading to put it into effect, will be discussed at the Feb. 23 BOMA meeting.