By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council ranked its top applicants for the city manager position just as it did several months back, but there were a few differences this time around.
First of all, there were actually four names chosen at the special workshop on Tuesday, Dec. 20, because the number-three spot had two applicants tie with an equal number of votes from the councilmen. Current Interim City Manager Sara Bowers’ name appeared on all five councilmen’s ballots and on the mayor’s as well, while Robert Fullencamp was on four of the six ballots and applicants Kebby Hall and John McCue appeared on two ballots apiece. Councilman Ron Kelley said these selections were preliminary rankings, with the final ranking to be made by the Council after interviews had been conducted with the four finalists.
The next major difference between this round of selections and the last time is that the Council will conduct its interviews after the applicants’ background checks have been completed, instead of the other way around. Finally, the Council’s consensus was to have Walton County Human Resources handle the background checks, rather than a combination of city staff and the DeFuniak Springs Police Department.
That last change was first proposed by Kelley, who said he had received an unofficial agreement from the county to carry out the task for the nominal fee associated with background checks. Kelley said the goals of using county HR to carry out the background checks were to save city staff the time while simultaneously avoiding the controversy that arose as the Council prepared to hire its previous top city manager candidate, Mike Standley.
“I am anxious to avoid even the appearance of impropriety on anybody’s part, ours, staff, police and everybody else,” Kelley said. “I think everybody would be in agreement with that.
“I just want [background checks] to be out of our hands.”
All other aspects of the pre-hiring process other than background checks will be carried out by the Council, including setting the dates for the interviews with the four top applicants. The Council will hold another special meeting to set the dates for the interviews after background checks have been concluded in approximately two weeks’ time.