By MATT KOESTERS
For now, at least, the search is off.
The Clarksville Town Council voted 4-3 to disband the Town Manager Search Committee, formed in August when the council voted unanimously to accept six recommendations made by the Clarksville City-Town Evaluation Committee.
Reading from a prepared statement at a work session following the council’s regular meeting Monday, Council President Bob Polston said the city-town committee was only charged with one duty: determining whether Clarksville should remain a town or become a city. Polston said the other five recommendations made by the committee were outside of the scope of their duties.
“I feel that the one charge recommendation to remain a town be accepted by the Clarksville Town Council and the other uncharged recommendations hereby be set aside, therefore returning the authority on how the town of Clarksville be governed back to the elected officials,” Polston said, reading from his statement.
Council member Bob Popp made the motion to disband the search committee, seconded by Paul Kraft, who said his position on the hiring of a town manager had been consistent. Kraft, Popp, Polston and Don Tetley voted to disband the committee and end the search for a town manager, while council members Paul Fetter, John Gilkey and Tim Hauber voted against the measure.
“I think that it’s time to move on,” Popp said.
The town council had accepted the six recommendations of the city-town committee on Aug. 19. Among the recommendations was the hiring of a town manager. The council unanimously decided at that meeting to charge Fetter with forming the search committee, which would identify candidates for the position, with the council having the final decision. But the search committee got off to a rocky start, with Popp accusing Fetter of stacking the committee with Republicans, though there were more Democrats than Republicans on the committee Fetter formed.
The search committee had a tumultuous month in October. The council voted 4-3 — with the same council members for and against — to disband the committee, only to reinstate it two weeks later, with some added stipulations.
The city-town committee was formed at a September 2012 meeting, when Polston motioned that the city-town issue be placed on the next municipal election ballot. The council opted to form the city-town committee to explore the issue at that time, with Gilkey charged with the task of acting as liaison between the committee and the council.
Popp said the council has full confidence in the department heads who oversee the town’s day-to-day operations, and said the town does not need micromanagement.
“Everyone in here’s minds are made up,” Popp said.
The decision came in response to a request for direction from search committee chair Jim Kenney, who was joined by fellow members Don Slone and Roberta McLemore in making the request.
“The recommendation of the [city-town] committee to hire a town manager was not based on a belief that Clarksville was being poorly governed,” Kenney said in an email to the News and Tribune after the meeting. “Unfortunately, some of the longer-tenured council members have perceived it that way. The committee felt that the town manager would only enhance our government and take it to an even higher level of performance.”
Former city-town committee member Rick Barr’s reaction to the council’s decision was outrage.
“As a citizen that votes — forget the committee — you don’t want to give up power,” Barr said.
Hauber reminded the council that the decision to form the city-town committee to begin with stemmed from discussion on whether Clarksville’s electoral system should remain as it is or switch to a system in which only voters within a district could vote for their district representative.
“I think district voting is going to rear its ugly head again,” Hauber said.
“And when it does,” Polston replied, “we’ll deal with it.”
The quote attributed to Hauber was erroneously attributed to Polston in a previous version of this story. We regret the error.