Whoever the councilmen choose, Harmon wanted to know the city would be in good hands, he said, explaining his reasons for staying.
After watching, Harmon said he felt good.
The applicants interviewed for the seat vacated by former Councilman David Dawson on April 24. The remaining four council members held a work session Monday to conduct the interviews and plan to appoint the new member at their meeting this afternoon.
One by one, the applicants were ushered in to the council chambers from City Hall, to face the council members and try to convince them they were the best person for the job. About 30 area residents were on hand to hear what the applicants had to say.
The council members asked basically the same questions of every applicant. Jay Jenkins asked what their goals would be during their short tenure -– a little more than five months –- before a new council takes office.
“I don’t believe that this is a time for somebody to jump in and try to rock the boat,” said Chris Abernathy, the first interview of the day. “I think it’s time for somebody to jump in and try to steady the ship and make it to the election so that whoever is elected will have the best opportunity to move forward.”
Both he and applicant Richard Thompson have said they will not run for the seat in the upcoming election and in-stead want to inspire a spirit of cooperation on the council.
Thompson went even further, saying he would not take any compensation for his time on the council if appointed. Thompson urged the councilmen to consider why the applicants were seeking the position. If they were running in the election, it might just be to get their foot in the door, he said.
“Are they here to help you all for the next four months or are they here to help themselves?” Thompson said.
But Bill Robison, a former mayor and councilman, disagreed with that assessment. Robison, who is now serving as an Anniston school board member, said the appointment would allow him to use his talents and experience where he was best suited –- on the Anniston City Council.
“I feel that I have been a contributor on the school board,” Robison said. “But I have no question in my mind that my abilities are much better suited as council member than as a school board member.”
Councilman Ben Little and Herbert Palmore both asked each applicant about issues they felt strongly about. Palmore, a strong proponent of increasing vocational education at Anniston High School, wanted to know how the applicants felt about the local school system and city funding for the schools.
Abernathy, Harmon, Millie Harris, Robison and Thompson all believed the city needed to take more responsibility for the school system.
“I think we absolutely need to develop vocational schools and courses and get these students prepared for the work force,” Harris said.
Applicant Joel Russell said if the city could come up with funding, fine, but the city needs to evaluate where it could get more “bang for its buck,” whether that be the school system or infrastructure.
“If there’s a need, if there’s a draw, again, let’s get our biggest bang for our buck,” Russell said. “If increasing (vocational education) helps, let’s look into it and see. If not, then lets look somewhere else to spend our money.”
Marcus Dunn, who ran for the council seat in 2008 and lost, said he thought rather than concentrating on money, the city should focus on keeping students in the public school system. Then the money would come.
“We can get funding through that, just by the numbers itself,” Dunn said.
Little, who has questioned the city’s internal-promotion-only policy in the police and fire departments, asked each applicant how they felt about the policy. Most of the candidates said they could see advantages in both opening up the promotion process to outside applicants as well as keeping it closed. Many applicants recommended opening the process but weighting the local officers applications.
“If we need to open it up to a wider audience and get better applicants, that’s OK,” Harmon said. “But I think perhaps there should be sort of a point system maybe where people in the community that have been here that understand what our community is going through. I think that’s also important.”
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.