In the heady days of the Gene Robinson-led City Hall, Anniston labored through the process that eventually led to the hiring of Don Hoyt, who is retiring this year. Resumes and interviews led the council to zero in on its top candidate, Richard Finn of New York.
Finn had strong credentials, 25 years of experience as a city manager in four different communities across the United States. He began contract negotiations with a salary range between $90,000 and $120,000 a year. The job, apparently, was his.
Depending on who you listened to — Finn or Anniston’s quirky former council — talks soured over money. The council said Finn asked for more, perhaps as much as $135,000 a year, plus perks. Finn said negotiations were continuing and he was unaware that the council had moved on to another candidate. The back-and-forth between the council and its top candidate was as comical as it was depressing.
It was so Anniston 2009.
That narrative is prescient today as a reminder of what’s at stake for the Stewart City Hall as it seeks Hoyt’s successor. The electoral change the swept over Gurnee Avenue in 2012 sucked out much of the dysfunction and put in place a leadership group that’s more professional and, in this case, better able to represent the city in its dealings with out-of-town candidates vying for six-figure management positions.
In other words, Annistonians should expect Mayor Vaughn Stewart and this council to avoid the worst pitfalls that led to Finn’s departure four years ago. (Two top candidates have already withdrawn from consideration, however.)
That said, we can’t help but wonder what type of candidate — strong, out-front leader or consensus-builder — the council selects. The finalists offer an array of possibilities that should provide what the council members desire.
Hoyt had the unfortunate luck of having to work a majority of his time in Anniston with a rag-tag group of political misfits who couldn’t screw in a lightbulb without causing a scene. For Hoyt, and for Anniston, that’s too bad.
Today’s reality says Anniston needs every hand on deck in terms of leadership. Weak links are exposed. As such, the decision facing the council isn’t merely a routine hire. It’s a decision to implant another person on the city’s management team. May the best candidate win.