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Commission leans toward Gay for city manager

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Chiefland commissioners have narrowed their sights down to one candidate for the recently vacated city manager position.

Three candidates had made it into the finals and were on the table for discussion in a special meeting Monday night, but commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of beginning the negotiation process with applicant Kevin W. Gay, of Beverly Hills.

Commissioner Rollin Hudson voted against the motion, stating he wasn't necessarily against hiring Gay but preferred applicant Wally Wagoner, of Ocala.

Applicant Artie Jones III, of Saint Mary's, Ga., though favored by Vice Mayor Teresa Barron early in the discussion, was soon left out of the equation, and commissioners spent the better part of an hour discussing the merits of Gay and Wagoner.

"I like all of them," Mayor Teal Pomeroy said of the candidates, "but, to me, Mr. Gay stood out."

Nearing the end of the meeting, Barron and Commissioner Sammy Cason said it basically came down to two things: choosing between Wagoner, who appeared to be better at budgeting and public relations and Gay, who appeared better at bringing in new business.

"I think the city needs Mr. Wagoner right now because of the financial situation the city is in," Cason said.

Pomeroy disagreed, stating that the budget was not too much of a concern.

"I don't see our city manager reinventing the budget," he said.

Barron said she liked that Gay seemed willing to become a part of the community and that he had family ties in the area.

Commissioners also said they felt Gay might be more willing to negotiate with a lower salary than the $65,000 a year previous City Manager Grady Hartzog made when he first started at the city more than six years ago. Commissioners decided they didn't want to pay a new city manager more than $60,000 a year.

Gay has a master's degree in business organizational management from the University of LaVerne, in Texas. He's held various management positions since 1997, with his most recent position being the business manager for the Office of Economic and Small Business Development, in Ocala.

Wagoner has a bachelor's degree in biology and environmental science from the University of West Alabama, as well as certification in corporate communications from Boston College. He's currently deputy superintendent of operations with the Marion County public school system and has 19 years experience as a leader in the utility industry, as well as 11 years of budget and financial experience.

Pomeroy said he and Interim City Manager Mary Ellzey would meet with with Gay later this week to begin negotiating a contract.