On Saturday night in a special called meeting, the East Ridge City Council authorized the City Attorney to begin contract negotiations with J. Scott Miller to become the next City Manager.
Vice Mayor Marc Gravitt made the motion for City Attorney Hal North to begin negotiations with the 66-year-old Miller, who interviewed Friday night. The motion also included that contract negotiations would only begin after a thorough background check of the presumptive city manager.
Gravitt told his colleagues that Miller had decades of experience in managing cities with multi-million dollar budgets, was well versed in economic development and recruitment of new businesses. In addition, he had experience in his previous job with a program similar to the Border Region Act which is helping spur growth in the city.
“You want somebody who has been there and done that,” Gravitt said.
Mayor Brent Lambert said he was impressed with Miller, who he described as having “a no-nonsense approach.” But, Lambert said that the candidate interviewed earlier Saturday night, Mark Kutney, was impressive. What particularly appealed to Lambert was Kutney’s expertise in city planning, an area in which East Ridge is sorely lacking.
Councilman Jacky Cagle wanted to know if the background check _ which will be conducted by officials with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service _ would include information about Miller’s health. Cagle noted that Miller had opted to retire from his last post in part due to health reasons.
City Attorney North said federal law prohibits the release of that kind of information but Miller could potentially voluntarily disclose the information.
That prompted Gravitt to say, “none of us sitting up here are guaranteed to wake up in the morning.”
Gravitt reiterated that Miller was the “best qualified” person for the job.
Lambert said that he had Miller and Kutney “in a dead heat.” He said they both appear to be very capable and experienced.
Councilman Larry Sewell seconded Gravitt’s motion. The Council split, 3-2, on offering Miller the position with Councilmen Denny Manning and Cagle voting against.
Councilman Manning then asked the Mayor if he could nominate Amanda Miller for City Manager. Lambert then explained that the Council had just agreed that Scott Miller was the candidate that the city would pursue. “A second candidate would mean that we have two finalists,” he said.
North attempted to bring clarity to Manning’s measure by offering that Amanda Miller would become “the first alternate” in the event that something happened with Scott Miller. Cagle seconded Manning’s motion.
Vice Mayor Gravitt then stated that Amanda Miller was in the audience and that he had something he wanted to say to her.
“You are a long-time employee and we are grateful for the work you do,” Gravitt said to Ms. Miller. “Don’t take this personally; I think you are very capable but I don’t think you are ready to step into this role.”
From the audience Ms. Miller said she did not take any of the comments personally and agreed with Gravitt that she may not be ready to assume the position as City Manager.
“With this conversation, I want to remove my second,” Cagle said.
J. Scott Miller was the City Manager of Leavenworth, Kansas for eight years and also served as CM in College Park, Georgia. After 40 years in government, he recently retired to Waynesboro, North Carolina, only to discover retirement was not for him.
In his Friday interview with the Council, Miller said he doesn’t micro-manage. He said his three tenets of management are “team work, responsiveness and communication.” He called that a “three-legged stool.” “If you’re missing one of the legs it will collapse.”
He’s got an open-door policy for the council, employees and citizens. “My door is always open,” he said. “That’s part of the job I miss. I’m a people person.”