By Ginger Jarvis
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Madison residents crammed into City Hall on January 10, eager to meet the candidates for the job of city manager. By four p.m., the room was packed with people introducing themselves to the candidates and discussing attitudes and qualifications.
Mayor Jim Catron presented the four candidates: Bailey Barefoot of Madison; Tim Bennett of Allendale, South Carolina; Oel Wingo of Holly Hills; and Jerome Wyche of Madison. Catron stressed that once the interviews began, the audience would have to refrain from comment. Then he allowed about 45 minutes for people to interact with the four.
The commissioners held a brief regular meeting at about 5 p.m., then started the interviews. The five commissioners each asked questions of the individual candidates separately, closing at about 9 p.m.
All the candidates told of solid experience in managerial and financial fields plus education and interpersonal skills. In response to Commissioner Judy Townsend’s question about their leisure activities, Barefoot said that he enjoys spending time with his wife, yard work, and golf; Bennett said that he enjoys going out with his wife and reading; Wingo replied that she rides a motorcycle; and Wyche said that he spends time with his family and enjoys golf, fishing, and watching Western movies.
Commissioner Rayne Cooks asked about the first steps the new manager would take. Barefoot said that he would meet the staff and employees and get information from them; Bennett replied, “Day One I will hit the ground running.” Wingo said that she would keep her ears open to learn about the community, and Wyche offered a list of 25 areas which he said would need work immediately.
Catron asked them to describe a time when they had used an innovative approach and about their experience with economic development, growth, and green power. Each offered sound examples of their work in those areas and with intergovernmental agencies.
Commissioner Jim Stanley asked about times when officials did not follow the manager’s recommendation; each said that he would follow the directives of the board, even if he did not agree with them.
Commissioner Myra Valentine asked them to name an area that would attract newcomers and visitors. Barefoot recommended financial enticements; Bennett said,”Keep doing what you are doing,” and recommended parks and recreation improvements and recruiting industry; Wingo said, “The whole downtown area is appealing.” Wyche said that handing out brochures and knocking on doors in other communities and using the media would attract growth.
The candidates responded in depth to queries about their management style, handling disgruntled employees, and their vision for Madison.
Following the interviews, Catron announced that the board will make a decision on Wednesday, January 11, at 5:30 p.m.