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Hall County board may choose new administrator today
Connell to leave in Aug.
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If enough board members can agree, the Hall County Board of Commissioners might choose a new county administrator today.

The Times has learned that commissioners are very close to reaching a decision on the county's next leader, and if they vote today, the top job will likely be filled from within the government's current ranks.

The board meets today in a regularly scheduled voting session. Hiring an administrator is not on the official agenda.

A commissioner could bring the issue to the table for discussion during his commission time, however.
"I think you will for sure see discussion," said Commissioner Scott Gibbs. "I wouldn't be surprised if you go ahead and see a vote."

The county has been without permanent leadership since January, when incoming commissioners purged the government of its previous upper-level management.

Commissioners have been discussing hiring an internal candidate for the county's top job behind the scenes for at least the last week. The matter has not been discussed publicly, however.

A vote to hire someone tonight might be thwarted by the commission's failure to gain a consensus.

Even though a candidate only needs the support of three board members to get the job, Chairman Tom Oliver said he wants at least four board members behind a candidate before making a public decision.

"I would hope that we would have that," Oliver said.

Some commissioners have been wary of hiring an internal candidate.

Commissioner Craig Lutz is one of them.

He said Wednesday he did not think any one of the county's current employees have the experience necessary to run all the facets of the government.

"I don't feel like Hall County is an entry-level position," Lutz said.

Lutz was part of the coalition that moved to force the resignations of former County Administrator Charley Nix, Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton and Finance Director Michaela Thompson.

A decision to hire a current employee today, Lutz said, would contradict the board's January decision.

"It's my feeling that the reason we got rid of the last county administrator was because he wasn't qualified when he came into the office," Lutz said.

Prior to serving as the county's administrator, Nix had been its director of human resources.

"He had to spend two years doing on-the-job training," Lutz said. "...I don't think that was a good experiment for Hall County."

Lutz says he hasn't yet seen a candidate that he felt was qualified for the job — even from outside the current ranks of the government.

Oliver says he is "leaning toward" one candidate. But as of Wednesday evening, Oliver could not say whether there were three other commissioners leaning the same way.

The only candidates Oliver said he has talked to about the job have been current county employees.

"I guess I'll just have to wait until Thursday night and see what the chemistry looks like," Oliver said.

Commissioner Ashley Bell told The Times earlier this week that he supported the same candidate Oliver supports.

He also was not sure Wednesday whether enough board members would agree on the candidate by Thursday to take a vote. Bell told The Times in a text message that votes were "getting slippery" and put the chances of a decision today at 50 percent.

Gibbs' vote for an administrator was an uncertainty Wednesday. He told The Times he had met with the candidate Bell and Oliver preferred, but he did not know if he was ready to make a decision.

"I'm giving everybody consideration," Gibbs said. "I'm just trying to walk through it and give it some thought."

Commissioner Billy Powell would not comment on commissioners' deliberations.

"I just don't feel good about anything I could say," Powell said. "It's a personnel issue, and I don't think it should be talked about in the newspaper before it's made public."

If an administrator is chosen tonight, it is likely the only decision the board will make as far as leadership.

Commissioners have said they will let the next administrator choose the county's No. 2 leader, the assistant administrator. Also, the county's next finance director will likely be hired with the blessing of the next administrator.

There's also the possibility that the new administrator will temporarily work alongside Interim County Administrator Jock Connell, extending Connell's term.

Connell is currently scheduled to leave his temporary post in early August.


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