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City officials to discuss change to full-time mayor
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McMinnville officials will be meeting Tuesday night to discuss what lies in the future for the city, a full-time mayor or full-time city administrator.
The meeting to discuss the possibility of eliminating the city administrator and creating a full-time mayor was called by Alderman Billy Wood, chairman of the Finance Committee.
“I just want to know what the new board wants to do,” said Alderman Billy Wood. “Do they want to eliminate the man or the position? No decision will be made Tuesday. I just want to talk about it.”
City administrator David Rutherford was hired by the city in 2007. Along with having 24 years experience in local government, he is a licensed attorney, has a master’s of science degree, has credentials with the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is a registered environmental health specialist. His current salary is $116,000 a year.
McMinnville mayors are elected every four years. By state law, only city residency and being a registered voter can be required for the job – a restriction that cannot be changed even if city officials make mayor a full-time position. The current salary for a part-time mayor is $900 a month or $10,800 a year.
“I don’t understand eliminating the city administrator position and replacing it with an individual that is not required to hold a degree in anything, but if that’s what the new board wants to do, then lets do it,” said Wood.
McMinnville would be one of several towns in Tennessee with a full-time mayor rather than a city administrator.
While Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville have full-time mayors rather than city administrators, towns the size of McMinnville include Millington, Brownsville, Portland and Arlington.
In early 2012, Millington leaders began considering doing away with the full-time mayor position for a city administrator after its mayor, Richard Hodges, resigned on Jan. 13 amid bribery charges. He was under investigation for offering city services to pay off illegal gambling debts.
Towns with a population of 8,000 or less with full-time mayors include Pikeville, Henderson, Trenton, Oakland and Medina.
Pikeville’s mayor, Greg Johnson, was arrested in September 2012 on four counts of official misconduct and theft over $60,000. Johnson’s charges are the result of an investigation launched in January by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office that alleges the mayor spent more than $177,000 in taxpayer funds for his own benefit.
Wood says he believes Rutherford has done a noteworthy job of turning around the city’s financial situation.
“People like to blame David for the decisions we made,” said Wood. “I still don’t understand that but most of the individuals running during the last election did so on a ballot of getting rid of David Rutherford or eliminating the position. So should we eliminate the position or the man?”
Wood says he has checked with the city attorney and replacing the city administrator with a full-time mayor can go into effect before Nov. 27. However, it will have to wait four more years once the new board is sworn in.
“Once the new board is sworn in, the change cannot be made for another four years,” Wood said. “I checked with legal. If you want to do it, we have to do it now. We have just enough time to do it if that’s what the new board wants.”
The administrator’s position was created by ordinance in 1987 to hire Tom Sprowl. His agreement with the city included a severance package and a super majority vote to terminate him.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be held on the second floor of city hall. Anyone who would like to speak on the matter can do so during the board’s recognition of visitors segment that begins at 7 p.m.