News and Tribune

February 24, 2014

Clarksville employee’s retirement sparks debate

Town council president defends hiring process

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

CLARKSVILLE — For 24 years, Trish Fraser has served as the administrative assistant to the Clarksville Town Council. Her years of service have drawn praise from the town’s leadership, but her pending retirement has put members of the council at odds on how to replace her.

Fraser is set to retire March 14, according to Council President Bob Polston. In addition to her role as administrative assistant to the council, the town’s website lists her as director of human resources.

“We’re really going to miss [Fraser],” Polston said. “She’ll be hard to replace.”

Polston said the job has been posted in the departments within the town and on the town’s website, and said if a suitable candidate to replace Fraser is identified, the search would conclude with that candidate’s hiring.

“If we don’t find someone suitable, then we’ll stretch out the search,” Polston said. “But right now, that’s the first search.”

But the search process prescribed by Polston doesn’t have enough reach, as it has only generated nine applicants, said Councilman John Gilkey. Gilkey said that the title of administrative assistant didn’t accurately portray the importance of Fraser’s role within the administration.

“My concern is, you’ll never know if you have the right person for the job, based on the fact that you only have those nine resumes,” Gilkey said.

Gilkey noted that a nationwide search was employed to identify the right candidate to become the director of the town’s parks and recreation department.

“Brian was recruited from a nationwide search, and we ended up with the best parks department superintendent that I think the town of Clarksville has ever had,” Gilkey said. “I would dearly like to see that kind of approach taken as we look at replacing Trish Fraser and possibly elevating that position to something a little bit closer to a town manager position.”

The town council had unanimously approved the hiring of a town manager in the summer of 2013, but Polston and fellow Democrats Bob Popp, Don Tetley and Paul Kraft voted months later to not hire a town manager. Gilkey, a Democrat, was joined by Republicans Paul Fetter and Tim Hauber in opposing the end of the search for a town manager.

A posting advertising Fraser’s position was sent to the council on Feb. 10. The following day, Fetter wrote to the council that he felt the need to “rethink this job offering.”

“Trish’s job description mirrors much of that of a town manager,” Fetter wrote. “There was a ‘Not at this time, or not ready’ attitude when town manager was brought up before. This position opening would qualify for a serious look at taking this step.”

Polston denied that Fraser’s responsibilities would mirror that of a town manager.

“I don’t think so. Basically, we’ve had a town administrative assistant for 24 years, and that’s basically what she does,” Polston said. “She assists the council, takes care of a lot of the paperwork. Now, some of the duties probably will fall under that, but that’s not the title, that’s not the job we’re trying to replace.”

Gilkey said he’d prefer the position’s title be changed to “chief administrator.” Polston disagreed.

“That’s in the eye of the beholder,” Polston said.