EDITORIAL: From here? Don’t apply.
Should a person be disqualified from serving as city manager because he or she is “from here”?
That is exactly what the Clinton City Council heard Sept. 18 from a city employee of 37 years experience. We are pretty sure that is illegal employment discrimination. “Place” discrimination is not far off from gender, racial, age or sexual preference discrimination, but the concerns are valid.
Can a person who’s “buddy-buddy” with city department heads and employees function effectively as “the boss.” Jerry Campbell said “no” - a person who’s already “from here” has made allegiances that would affect his or her work as the next Clinton City Manager, he said.
“I see a lot of citizens every day. We need to hire a city manager with experience, someone educated to be a manager, someone who is not scared to say yes or no. There is too much buddy-buddy.”
If the city council hires from within - instead of someone from the outside - Campbell said, “I’ll just tell everybody the council wasn’t willing to do that (hire from the outside).”
The deadline for new city manager applications was Aug. 31. Everyone who will be considered has already applied to fill the office left by Frank Stovall, who has settled into a history, heritage and finance job in Virginia. Stovall gave eight years of dedicated service to the City of Clinton, basically setting forth the path of economic development the city is now on - a “we can’t wait for the county or state to bring us prospects, we have to do things for ourselves” path of progress.
Campbell said the last two city managers have been “get training and move on” people, and the city council now should look for someone interested in staying long-term. We think that is a good idea, and no one in the city can repay the debt we owe to Campbell and other employees who have dedicated their lives to public service. We want someone at the top who’s going to stay - but not grow stale. Plus, the variances of local government are such that the people who hired you might not be the people you work for five years from now. Adaptability is a good thing, but without compromising core principles.
So, we are not completely sure that the Clinton City Council should “hire from without.” First, it’s discrimination. Second, it’s an artificial roadblock to an energetic person already established in city hall. Third, if we shut out anyone who works in Clinton government, how about people who live in Clinton, our community is tightly woven, people know each other - maybe even are “buddies” - without working together. Then, what about someone who lives in Laurens County, it’s not that big, people have children in the same recreation programs, in schools and day care together, work out at the same YMCA. Now the “can’t hire here” boundary is starting to widen, perhaps to the detriment of finding a great candidate.
People can say whatever they want in a public forum (outside of slander) but you have to wonder if the Clinton City Council even hearing a suggestion not to hire from within already hasn’t lost a qualified candidate or two who thought, “Naw, why apply? They’re not going to interview somebody like me.”
We want the members of Clinton City Council to go into this very important hiring process with clear minds and open hearts. Yes, we want an experienced candidate. No, we don’t want someone who’s “always done it this way.” Ladies and gentlemen, good luck.