County administrator

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 25, 2008

By Billy Davis

Describing key qualities of the next county administrator, Panola County supervisors said this week the successor to David Chandler should connect well with the public and work well with the board.

Supervisors were polled earlier this week about their view of the next hire, days before they’re set to select Chandler’s replacement. That long-awaited day comes today at 5 p.m. in Batesville.

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The board met in executive session throughout the day on Monday, interviewing nine job candidates by 4 p.m.

Board minutes from the closed-door session will show supervisors voted to recess until today when a vote will determine the applicant, said chancery clerk Jim Pitcock, who attended the executive session.

The job requirement of a county administrator includes preparing the county budget and tax levy; supervising solid waste, zoning and building ordinances, county purchases and airport property; securing insurance coverage; and overseeing proper maintenance and upkeep of county property.

The coming selection will provide Panola County with only its second administrator in two decades. Chandler has held the post since he was selected in 1987.

Reached after the Monday meeting, supervisors voiced their personal benchmarks for choosing the next administrator.

 “What we need is an individual who can talk to the public and work well with the board,” said District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup.

An accounting background is also important, he said.

“We need somebody with audit experience… somebody who’s the best for the county… best for the taxpayers,” said District 1 Supervisor James Birge.

“I think experience with county government – knowledge of millage, of the garbage system and acquiring grants – is important,” said District 3 Supervisor Gary Thompson. “A learning curve is fine, but the smaller the curve the better.”

“I think we should pick somebody who knows about Panola County, loves Panola County and wants to see it grow, and knows how to handle county business,” said District 4 Supervisor Kelly Morris.

Morris added that the winning applicant should have some knowledge of county government – “someone who doesn’t have to be trained,” he said.

Board president Robert Avant, after first saying he was undecided about qualifications, said he is looking for a “people person” who is familiar with county government.

According to Chandler, he was permitted by supervisors to ask each job candidate 10 questions, plus some follow-up questions. The topics include preparing budgets and figuring a tax levy, knowledge of accounting, and experience in personnel management, government purchasing, and the operation of county government.

The current administrator also prepared a rating sheet for each supervisor to rate the candidates on a scale of 1 to 5. The sheet described 14 job descriptions related to the administrator’s job.

Chandler said there was “no discussion” among supervisors of calling back any applicants for a second interview, an action he attributed in part to the 10 specific questions and the rating sheet.

“The questions that were asked – you either knew them or you didn’t,” Chandler said.

Chandler said the Monday interviews winnowed down the candidate pool to “three or four” top candidates, but supervisors would not say if the board narrowed its search in preparation for Friday’s final vote.