With the economic development commission approved by the city, Vice Mayor Bill Nickles brought up the discussion of hiring a city manager again to help oversee the commission during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session on Tuesday, May 7.
Nickels believes the city will need a manager.
“We have got to have a professional point of contact in this city to get anything done and we do not have a professional point of contact in this city right now. That’s my basis for presenting this to the board,” Nickels said.
Like before, the idea was met with mixed responses.
“I really believe a city this size needs a city manager, but if the board doesn’t support it, if the mayor doesn’t support it, that person is going to be whacked off before they take a seat in their office. It’s got to have the full support,” said alderman Marilyn Howard.
Alderman Ryan French admitted he grappled with the idea and can’t wrap his head around how it will work.
“Fundamentally, I don’t know,” he said, explaining he needs the language put in front of them that outlines the city manager’s duties, responsibilities and power.
In response, Nickels said he’s spoken with Tullahoma’s city manager, Jennifer W. Moody, who told him the position could easily be used for city management and economic development.
“I asked for an economic development person and that’s sort of a nebulous job – [Moody] said you can work and work all day…but it doesn’t show up on a checklist. She said that was sort of a hard thing to quantify in general. She did say many of her peers were able to do both (economic development and city manager),” Nickels said.
He added that Moody advised him to get a city manager before an economic development board was officially chartered by the state.
Alderman Bob Bellamy recalled the city’s past two managers. He pointed out the biggest problem was the board would not leave them alone.
“They’d meet them at the back door and say ‘I want you to vote like this or I’ll vote you off,’” Bellamy said.
Nickels said that wouldn’t be the case with this board and hoped they would be able to set a precedent for the next 100 years.
“If this board can be solid enough and establish enough respect for the order of government then I think it would carry through,” Nickels said.
He explained the city manager would be autonomous and not be political, but would have the power to manage the city.
Bellamy voiced he was not comfortable with the idea of a city manager having the power to fire a department head without BOMA’s consent.
BOMA would be able to rehire the department head if they felt the person was wrongly fired, however that would be interfering with the city manager’s work, which is what Bellamy was worried about.
BOMA would hold the power to hire and fire the city manager as well.
The discussion ended in the work session without a vote.