Red Bank commissioners interviewing their final city manager candidate Wednesday asked why he would leave his post at a successful downtown development group in North Carolina to work in Red Bank.
It's a city with "a lot of issues," in the words of one commissioner.
Randy Hemann, of Salisbury, N.C., has served about 15 years as executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc. During his interview in Red Bank City Hall, Hemann highlighted $70 million in development in Salisbury since the late 1990s. He also cited historical preservation and new entertainment and arts districts as keys to the town's revival.
"The transformation in our town has been pretty phenomenal," he said.
Commissioners asked Hemann if he was up for dealing with Red Bank's chronic problems with vacant business buildings and housing code violations.
"Red Bank has got a lot of issues," Commissioner John Roberts said. "Our police department is in chaos right now," he added, referring to five lawsuits former and current police department employees have filed against the city in the last year.
"I'm not trying to put our city down, but I really am curious as to why you would leave Salisbury for Red Bank," Commissioner Ruth Jeno said.
Hemann said he had completed his work in Salisbury and was ready for a new endeavor.
"I want to be somewhere where I can see the fruits of my labor and see what changes over time," he said.
He said Red Bank needs to develop a comprehensive revitalization plan.
"Every community has got to decide, 'What do we want to be 10 to 15 years from now?'" he said. "You need a plan that outlasts city managers, and frankly, that outlasts commissions and mayors."
Commissioners abruptly voted 3-2 in October to fire Chris Dorsey, who had been city manager for six years.
Other candidates already interviewed are local CPA Randy Fairbanks; Red Bank Fire Chief Mark Matthews; Marty Von Schaaf, head of the Hamilton County Republican Party; and businessman Jim Folkner, who spearheaded the movement to recall Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.
Commissioners plan to make their choice during a Dec. 6 work session.