Oxford city manager search nearing conclusion

Jan. 01, 2013 @ 04:43 PM

Two key positions in Oxford appear to be on course for fulfillment soon.

The city manager position has been vacant since June and the fire chief position since July.

Leonard Barefoot is serving as interim city manager and Police Chief John Wolford has doubled as fire chief.

“We’re being very methodical,” Mayor Jackie Sergent said of the city manager search. “It’s an extraordinarily important decision we’re making. The consequences will be great for a long period of time.”

The city received 85 applications for the position, she said. That group was trimmed under 20. Barefoot made telephone calls to that group to obtain additional information where it was needed. The board then reduced the number still under serious consideration to nine. One candidate withdrew.

The entire board participated in closed meetings on Dec. 17 and 19 to conduct interviews via Skype with each of the eight remaining candidates. The Skype interview allowed two-way voice communication between the members of the board and the candidate and one-way visual communication, which allowed the board to see the candidate but not the reverse.

“It’s a process I’m quite delighted about,” Sergent said.

The interviews lasted for an average of 15 to 20 minutes.

“There was a standard set of eight questions,” she said. “The board had an opportunity to ask follow-up questions.”

None of the eight candidates has been eliminated at this point.

“Different board members had different preferences. All of the candidates are strong,” Sergent said.

The interviews were very helpful but not decisive in any case “because we do recognize the way you come across in a Skype interview may be different than in person.”

The next step is to arrange interviews in Oxford.

“We hope to have face-to-face interviews in the next few weeks, depending on people’s schedules,” Sergent said.

The board is scheduled to meet in closed session again on today. The next regular monthly meeting will take place Tuesday, but Sergent said no final action will be taken on the city manager position because the interviews will not be completed at that time.

However, the commissioners may be in a position to hire a fire chief.

Barefoot is managing that search and said last week he was hopeful of extending an offer this week.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.