We, and apparently many of you, were a little underwhelmed when the city of Covington unveiled its three top finalists to replace Steve Horton as city manager.
After months of searching and receiving applications from 98 candidates, we were given two internal candidates with no top administrative experience and a former Florida city manager who got caught up in a political mess a couple of years ago.
We have nothing against Covington Finance Director Leigh Anne Knight or Covington Police Capt. Craig Treadwell, both of whom have good reputations in the community. However, we question whether they have the experience to get the job done. And that's our role: to question. It's up to the city council and mayor to convince us and the public that their choice can do the job.
If they pick someone, they're going to have to stand by that choice, because there's a steep learning curve.
Consultant Jim Mercer said the city council skipped over some pretty capable external candidates because they wanted the right mix of skills. If that's true, then we're a little confused as to how we ended up with two internal candidates who don't have any experience dealing with the majority of the city's departments.
The other candidate does have the requisite experience, running the helm of multiple cities in Florida and serving as assistant city manager at some large municipalities. However, Oel Wingo, also comes with a few question marks. The ethics complaint filed against her by one of her former employers was dropped, but, if nothing else, that incident speaks of a city manager who couldn't steer clear of internal politics. That's a trait that many city managers need to be successful.
We've been told that two experienced external candidates pulled out of consideration just before being interviewed. That speaks to some bad luck, and that happens in hiring. However, while it's important to be timely in hiring, it's also important to take the time to find the right person, especially with a position as important as city manager.
If the council, or the mayor in the case of a split, isn't 90 percent comfortable with the choice, then we suggest they either review the candidates again or start the search over. The contract they signed with The Mercer Group allows for this at a cost of probably a few thousand dollars. The bottom line is that this is where the council and mayor need to step up and make the right choice, no matter how hard it may be. In the meantime, we'll keep asking the tough questions.