They were answering questions posed by members of the Anniston City Council, who had gathered at Anniston Fire Station No. 1 because it had the facilities the council needed to hold an online conversation — in this case, preliminary job interviews with two who've applied for the job.
First up late Tuesday morning was Angela Christian, the deputy county manager of North Carolina’s Onslow County, followed in the afternoon by Brian Johnson, the city manager of Garden City, Ga. Four more are being interviewed today.
Christian told the council that she is a collaborative leader.
“I believe in having people under a big tent and we work together to solve big problems that we face as part of our community,” she said.
Christian has moved up the ranks of local government over a 20-year career with more than a decade in the finance department of Columbus, Ga. She cites budgeting and finance as her area of strength, noting that she has worked with budgets ranging from $2 million to more than $300 million.
With that strong fiscal background, she said, she began to focus more on operations in her present role, working closely with departments to learn about areas from solid waste to parks to the local airport.
Christian named trust and credibility as a challenge facing local governments.
She said residents need to believe “that we’re relevant, we’re important and we’re able to do positive things in our community.”
In Anniston’s challenges, she said, she sees a great deal of opportunity. The charm of a small community is part of what drew Christian to Anniston. “I love the philosophy you’ve adopted of mixing the old with the new,” she said.
Brian Johnson has served as city manager of Garden City since 2007; before he began his career in local government, he served in both the Navy and Army.
City Council members focused on Johnson’s military service and how it bears on his leadership style and relationship to local government.
Johnson said his leadership training in the military certainly helped him learn to manage employees and build morale, but now he carries out that work in the context of a civilian organization.
Johnson said he developed his love for local government in the Army as a company commander in charge of a Baghdad suburb after the invasion of Iraq. His work involved rebuilding local government that had ceased to function because of war.
“People don’t realize how helpless they feel when the things local government provide, things they often overlook, doesn’t work,” he said. “When you turn on your faucet and no water comes out, that’s a bigger deal than people realize because it almost never happens.”
Johnson said he tries to “lead from the front,” meaning he is literally the first to arrive and last to leave City Hall each day and works a day a month along city employees in a variety of roles.
Current City Manager Don Hoyt is set to retire at the end of this month, and City Council members hope to make a decision by that time and have someone in place as soon as logistically possible.
Today the council will squeeze in the four remaining interviews: Scott Larese, Allyn Holladay, Gerald Smith and David Rutherford. Since council members formalized their top 12 candidates based on individual rankings last week, the two highest-ranked candidates — Iris Jessie and Steve Howard — have withdrawn their names from consideration for the position.
Mayor Vaughn Stewart asked council members to submit their rankings for the candidates by Thursday afternoon so the city can begin to make arrangements to fly the top three candidates to Anniston for in-person interviews during the next two weeks. The day-long interviews will include council interviews, tours of the city, and open-house gatherings for community organizations and the public.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.