The Loudon County Economic Development Agency board is moving full speed ahead to replace retiring Executive Director Pat Phillips.
An EDA committee has looked over submitted resumes and will now begin conducting interviews with the top 10 candidates.
The committee of Phillips, Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw, Lenoir City Recorder/Treasurer Jim Wilburn, Loudon Mayor Jim Greenway and Loudon City Manager Lynn Mills reviewed 30 applicants using a grading system that covered 13 areas and offered a maximum rating of 65.
“We had them as far as from California to Maryland, Florida, and so the listing for the position was out there and to see that kind of interest I think is impressive for Loudon,” Bradshaw said. “Some candidates are better qualified than others, but I think that’s a great — especially for ones that did their homework on the position … — I think that says a lot of good things for Loudon County what it has to offer.”
Phillips said the position was advertised through the Tennessee Economic Development Council, Monster.com and other well-known job search sites, which is likely what resulted in the national attention.
“I was surprised we didn’t get more from within Tennessee,” Phillips said. “... We got quite a few from Tennessee, but we didn’t get the — we got some good applications, I think, but I expected more from Tennessee, particularly people with an economic development background.”
Interviews will be conducted in two waves, Bradshaw said, with the first round being over the phone to gauge the interest of each candidate once more information is given, including the salary range. Board members agreed to set a salary range of $80,000-$95,000.
“Several of them are making more money at the jobs they currently have, and it may be difficult to attract some of them,” Greenway said. “But there’s other good candidates there. We’ll find the one with what we can provide. We haven’t even come up with our package yet.”
Phillips estimated economic directors in other counties average $100,000-$110,000 per year.
“Once the salary gets out there, I think we may see a few drop out of that top 10, especially because some of those folks are very highly qualified,” Bradshaw said. “Judging from what I can remember, some of those will be leaving jobs that already pay more than that. Of course, I know some of the spots are a lot higher cost of living, so that could play in as well.”
After the first wave, Bradshaw said he wanted to hold a special called meeting with the full board to whittle the group to three, where they will then be interviewed in person.
“We have to give ample notice and, of course, invite the media and the public,” Phillips said. “That’s caused a little delay.”
Phillips will be retiring April 15, but he said he will still remain available until another director is brought on board. Once a hire is made, Phillips is limited by Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System to 960 hours in a 12-month period.
Initially the plan was for Phillips to work part time until April 2017.
“So either I use up more of my hours at the beginning, which is probably what’s going to happen,” Phillips said. “I’ll probably end up leaving a little earlier than I normally would have left.”
Phillips said he envisioned a replacement could be hired in May.
“I think the board wants to get it right,” Phillips said. “It’s just a slow process, and again, we wanted the board to be involved in decisions of how we want to proceed. So, we just can’t meet on a whim.”