By ALICIA LEONARD
Three applicants vied for the position of DeFuniak Springs City Manager in a special interview and hiring session that took place at DeFuniak Springs City Hall Jan. 13 at 1 p.m.
Acting interim City Manager Sara Bowers, along with Kebby Hall and John McCue appeared in alphabetical order in front of the Council to answer 10 predetermined interview questions along with a few additional questions from council members during the interview process.
First up, Bowers was asked by Mayor Harold Carpenter to tell the Council and audience a little bit about herself. Bowers answered, “I was born and raised in DeFuniak Springs, the youngest of five children. My grandfather started a business, Service Drug Company. I worked in the store growing up. My brother jumped through all the hoops to ensure that I could go to college as a Gator. I received a degree in accounting there. Ultimately, a job here in the finance department opened up and I was able to move back home. I jumped at the chance because this is a wonderful community to raise a family in.”
Carpenter then asked why Bowers decided to apply for the position. Bowers responded, “DeFuniak is a wonderful place. For business, I’d love to see more business and I would just like to better serve the citizens of DeFuniak Springs. I’ve been the Finance Director for almost 21 years. I’d love to see this community continue to grow and prosper.”
Bowers was then asked how she determined priorities in her last job. “That depends on what is needed when, the time it will take. It all depended on the time constraints,” she responded. When asked how she would describe her style as a supervisor, she responded. “Ah, laid-back. Get all the information of what has occured and depending on what has occurred deciding on a course of action from counseling, to written reprimand. Currently, all that could be done (when firing an employee) is a recommendation to the Council.”
Councilman Wayne Graham responded with a question for Bowers. “Working here for 21 years with many of the staff, would you see having a problem with delegating the authority to get the job done?” he asked.
Bowers responded, “Delegation is no problem whatsoever.” She asked for clarification over the authority part of Graham’s question. He reiterated, “Would you have problems dealing with your department heads?” She responded, “No, absolutely no problem with that.”
Carpenter intervened and explained that if possible, all applicants needed to be asked the same questions. Bowers’ interview portion continued and was asked, besides education and job experience, what would qualify her for the position. “The love of this community. This is where I grew up. This is where I ultimately hope that when my child finishes college can come back and find a decent paying job and live here. Just like I see many of you, one day I want to be a grandparent and be able to spoil that grandchild and give it back and if she’s not here, that’s going to be more difficult.” Carpenter asked if she thought job experience qualified her for the position. She responded, “Yes, sir. Working with the city for almost the past 21 years, I do know the ins and outs. In the financial area, it touches everything.”
Bowers was asked what personal characteristics and qualities she could bring to the position that would be helpful in fulfilling the job. She responded, “Knowledge of how the city works. The ins and outs. I don’t have to go to somebody and ask them about a particular situation. I’ve been involved in it, not every time. Love of community.”
Bowers was then asked about goals she may have set in the past and how successful she was at accomplishing those goals. “A major goal in the past that I set out to accomplish, with my child going to college, I always wanted to get a master’s degree. I went back to school and just last April I received a Masters in Business Administration.”
Bowers was asked what appealed to her about the position and the city. She responded, “My heart is in this city, in this community, and this job would just allow me to be more involved. I really want to see more business growth. That’s what I want to take the city to.”
Bowers was asked in six words or less how she would describe DeFuniak Springs. “Unique, quaint, historic, family and business friendly.” When questioned about her vision for the city she responded, “To maintain the historic preservation and to also grow economically and get business here.”
The last of the 10 questions was poised to Bowers by Carpenter, “Why should we hire you?” She responded, “Because I’m passionate about DeFuniak Springs. I’m passionate about this community. I’m vested in this community and I want to do the best for the citizens.”
Councilmen Kermit Wright spoke up, “I agree with you wholeheartedly that the same questions should be asked to each candidate, but going through the individual packages what is pertinent to one is not pertinent to another. So, in that light, I need to have a little latitude. One thing that concerns me deeply is that I assume you understand you would be going on a one year temporary status, then at the end of that one year it will be decided if it will be full-time, a done deal. If you leave your current position and take this and we rehire someone for your old position and then if it doesn’t work out, are you prepared for that? Bowers answered, “Yes, sir.”
Next, Wright questioned, “One thing that puzzled me is on your personal evaluation from 11/26/09 to 11/26/10, councilman one gave you five out of five, councilman two gave you five out of five, councilman number three gave you a four out of five, the mayor gave you a four-point-four out of five, but the city manager gave you a two-point-eight out of five. This doesn’t make sense for a whole board to have rated you that high and the city manager…was there a personality conflict? What’s the story?”
Bowers responded, “I would just like to leave it as a personality conflict.” Wright then asked Bowers, “What’s the most important part of delegation?” Bowers responded, “Follow-up….”
Read the full story in the Jan. 19, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.