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Canton town manager search drags on

There are just two candidates left in the bid to be Canton’s next town manager, but Mayor Pat Smathers said he doesn’t know how much longer it will take the board to finally pick one.

The town has been without a manager since December 2007, when long-time manager Bill Stamey abruptly retired. Stamey’s announcement followed an election sweep that saw the replacement of three long-time Canton aldermen and shift in majority power on the board.

Al Matthews, the former assistant town manager under Stamey, has been playing the roles of interim town manager, assistant town manager, and town clerk for more than a year since Stamey’s departure. Matthews has long been considered the heir apparent to Stamey. When he left his job as the Maggie town manager years ago to come to Canton, he was told by the town board at the time they would one day make him manager. But the arrival of a new board majority voided that promise.

The town board waited six months before starting the search for a manager in the summer of 2008. They received more than 30 applications before closing the search in November.

The long, drawn-out process still doesn’t have a definite ending date.

“It could happen toward the end of March, or it could not happen,” Smathers said.

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He said aldermen are trying to arrange a time to interview the two remaining candidates again. The board is not releasing the names of the two finalists.

Smathers said the length of the process is partly because the town board wanted to wait until after it worked out its yearly budget to start a search. They’ve also taken their time in weeding out candidates.

“Let me just say that the board is being very deliberate in what they do, but it is a bit frustrating because we don’t have a manager, assistant manager, or town clerk,” Smathers said.

Smathers said board members, and himself, have varying opinions about what they’re looking for in a town manager.

Alderman Troy Mann told The Smoky Mountain News last month that he would ideally like to see two people sharing the town manager duties.

“If we hire an older person, we would like to also hire a younger person to elevate to town manager (one day),” Mann said. “That way, you have the continuity of government and knowledge between one generation and the next.”

Smathers, though, wouldn’t say whether he agreed with Mann’s suggestion.

“I have my opinion, and what I’m looking for, and I would say that each alderman has their opinion and what they’re looking for,” said Smathers. “I’m not sure that we all agree.”

Smathers, however, noted that as mayor, he can’t vote unless there’s a tie between aldermen.

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