Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 22, 2008

By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors closed boardroom doors Monday morning and got down to business: interviewing candidates to find a new county administrator.

The interviews began at 9:30 with Trey Hamby, 38, a program specialist for North Delta Planning and Development.

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Kelly Magee, deputy comptroller and inventory control clerk for Lafayette County, was scheduled to follow Hamby.

Current administrator David Chandler scheduled interviews, and a list he handed out Monday showed the board would break at 11:30 for lunch and resume interviews at 1:15.  

The other job candidates, in order of their scheduled appearance, are Carolyn Mills, Jeremy E. Flippin, Jim Crowley, Robert B. Sullivant Jr., Levette Upshaw, Sidney M. Runnels, and John A. Cannon.

The board of supervisors is seeking a successor to retiring administrator David Chandler.

The office of county administrator is set by Mississippi law. The job requirement includes a string of various duties that include preparing the county budget and tax levy; supervising solid waste, zoning and building ordinances, county purchases and airport property; securing insurance coverage at the lowest premiums; and overseeing proper maintenance and upkeep of county property.

Chandler has held the post since 1987, when Panola County moved to the unit system, and over time has built the job into a powerful, influential office. He is working on a month-to-month contract after officially retiring December 31.

Candidates are being interviewed in executive session, which is allowed for public boards during matters of job employment. State law provides for other allowances as well, such as litigation.

The five-man board first discussed the need for an executive session in a so-called “closed session.” Board attorney Bill McKenzie emerged about three minutes later to declare the closed session over, and in the open meeting supervisors voted unanimously to enter an executive session.

Reflecting on the discussion in closed session, McKenzie said board minutes would show supervisors felt the executive session would allow the board and job candidates to talk more freely.

The Panola County Board of Supervisors rarely goes into executive session, and McKenzie guided the board through the procedure, beginning with the closed session, after reviewing state law himself.

After McKenzie explained the procedure, board president Robert Avant mistakenly prompted Supervisor Gary Thompson to make a board motion for an executive session. McKenzie noted the error, and Thompson then made a motion for the closed session.

Monday’s meeting properly began as an open meeting that allowed supervisors to accept bids for the purchase and sale of road graders, and the purchase of two backhoes.