LCUB search committee expected to recommend Littleton

Tammy Cheek News Herald

A committee, made up of Lenoir City Utilities Board (LCUB) members, made its choice Thursday to recommend Shannon Littleton as the person to fill LCUB's general manager position.


Monday, the committee is set to recommending to the full LCUB board that it hire Littleton, who now holds the assistant general manager post, as well as city attorney, according to members of the committee. The board is scheduled to meet 4 p.m. in the city hall.

The search committee received 29 applicants for the position. Chaired by Pat Beasley, it had already narrowed the field from 29 to five - Chris Brewer of Burbourville, Ky.; Ronald Fuller of Washington, La.; Littleton; David Trego of Wyomissing, Pa.; and Charles Ward of Riverton, Wy. 

Thursday, the committee again went over the applicants' salary requests, compensation packages and experience before they narrowed the choices to three. Of those, one was not available for another interview until Monday and another was interviewed by phone. Littleton was available for a personal interview. "I can manage this utility," he said. "There is not an aspect of this utility I am not aware of, that I have not touched in the past.  "I believe that, if I'm given the opportunity, in a very short order this board will see that they can very easily have the confidence and see the things I have discussed today will come to pass." 

Littleton related how he is aware of issues confronting LCUB and described plans in place to deal with those issues. He also related his dealings with employees on a day-to-day basis, as well has his experience in arbitration and negotiations. "My recollection is we have never lost an arbitration," he said. 

He said he has directly managed several departments and contracting crews, other legal counsels and engineering firms. "The board knows my demeanor," he said. "I'm a very easy-going person; but when it gets tough, I can take care of the situation." Beasley asked how Littleton would communicate with the board. "I think communication with the board is very, very important," Littleton said. "If we have an incident of magnitude the board needs to be aware of, I will personally pick up the phone and notify the board."

Concerning issues of normal business operations, he said he intends to work with the board to develop some form of liaison to the board. He suggested the budget committee as that liaison.

Should LCUB choose Littleton as general manager, it will need to consider additions to the payroll to hire a new assistant general manager and a new city attorney, Matt Brookshire advised.  "You're an attorney by education and trade, this (taking the position as general manager) could be considered a change in career path, Committee member and LCUB member Joel Garber noted before he asked Littleton to reply to that. "Yes it is," Littleton said. "Early on, I recognized that I have a love for the utility system. "Fortunately, I had the municipal legal background to understand the operations and the legal business perspective before I got here," he said. "So, I fully understand what I'm getting into. I like it. A legal profession doesn't excite me as much as being general manager of LCUB; but I do have a love for the legal profession and I believe what I can bring to the table - what you will see with the larger utilities - is that they are becoming much more business like. They (general managers) are MBAs."


He noted there is an attorney serving as manager or assistant manager of a Memphis utility company. "I think I can bring a lot to the table, by being a lawyer; but I am prepared to make a career change and become general manager," he said.

Littleton has been with LCUB part-time since 1999. In 1999 and most of 2000, he was sitting in for the city attorney at that time. His employment as city attorney became permanent in 2001. In 2004, when Fred Nelson became general manager, Littleton was given title as assistant general manager, in addition to his role as city attorney. 

Following the interview, committee members deliberated on their choices with a preference to stay "in-house." Garber offered a "wish list" of attributes for the general management position, those being a good manager of people and finances and has technical expertise - "someone who has grown up in the utilities" - someone who has an engineering degree or equivalent in experience.  "You cannot tell that from a resume," he said. "I think Shannon has good experience." 

While Garber noted Littleton does not have the technical and field experience, he has shown people and managerial skills. Reviewing the applicants, committee member Tony Aikens said while the applicant from Kentucky, Brewer, "seems like a nice guy," Aikens noted his concern handling a larger utility company would be too much "over his head." He noted Brewer is dealing with 4,000 customers while LCUB has 60,000. "We're running a $90 million facility," he said. "We have a person in-house, who was named assistant manager six years ago to do that job, if necessary, and I believe we should promote within when possible and when qualified. "I think he (Littleton) gave very good answers and is qualified," Aikens added.  

Committee member Gene Hamby and Douglas "Buddy" Hines echoed Aikens' preference of Littleton as first choice. "With the problems we've got facing us right now, we don't need a new man in here," Hines said. "I would go with Shannon 100 percent." "I feel like Buddy, I think it's the wrong time for a major change," Hamby said. "We've just got too many important things going on. I think Shannon has a wide variety of experience that only time has given him. He would be my choice." 

Committee member Bobby Johnson Sr. agreed while Brewer had a good interview, Johnson was also concerned with the applicants being able to handle a larger utility. He also approved of Littleton, as did Garber and committee member Eddie Simpson.