City manager candidates down to 4; Anniston City Council narrows contenders, will interview potential hires in upcoming weeks
by Megan Nichols
Staff Writer
Jun 03, 2009 | 1639 views |  2 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Anniston City Council will in coming weeks interview four candidates for its vacant city manager position.

The council in a Tuesday work session narrowed city manager candidates from five to four using a point system.

The council originally planned to go to three contenders Tuesday, but the numerical system created a three-way tie for second place. Each councilman and the mayor chose three of the five finalists and awarded them one to three points. Candidates with the most points moved forward.

Rather than break the tie, the council decided to interview all four.

The four candidates are:

• Richard Finn, who last worked as city manager for Takoma Park, Md. Finn has been working on his doctorate since 2005.

• John J. Drago, who until recently worked as city administrator for Longwood, Fla.

• Don Hoyt, county manager for Chambers County.

• Roger Sawyer, who until November 2008 worked as operations director for Consolidated Publishing Co., which publishes The Star.

The council asked Police Chief John Dryden to conduct extensive background checks on the men. Dryden already had looked into their criminal and credit histories, but the council wants employment and education verification.

Councilman Ben Little questioned how Councilman John Spain and Mayor Gene Robinson chose one of their candidates. Spain and Robinson both chose Sawyer as their No. 1 picks. He didn't make the other councilmen's lists.

Robinson and Spain have said an outpouring of public support from the public in Sawyer's favor convinced them to alter their selection criteria. The council had originally agreed to assess candidates based on qualifications listed in their job posting. Those included government management experience, which Sawyer does not have.

"It's amazing to me that we put out criteria we were looking for in a city manager and somehow another we changed that," Little said. "This has turned into Anniston Idol. The person who received the most phone calls got in."

Robinson responded that he put more weight on the person rather than the criteria. Spain said he took exception to Little comparing the selection to a game show.

"If this is how we wanted it done we should have told (all the finalists) it would help to have people call in or write letters on your behalf," Little said.

Spain said he was listening to his constituents and would continue to do what they want.

Councilman Herbert Palmore said the other three finalists, who do not live here, are at a disadvantage if Spain and Robinson put so much weight on what locals want.

"They don't have friends and family here to call in," he said.

The council will discuss Tuesday when to bring candidates in for interviews. They hope to choose a new city manager by July.
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