published Monday, November 14th, 2011

South Pittsburg stalls on choice of city clerk

By Ryan Lewis/Correspondent

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. -- The process of hiring a new city clerk will last a little longer.

City Administrator Bently Thomas said the town received 28 applications for the position. After interviewing seven applicants, he recommended that city commissioners hire Diane Beavers for the job.

"I really feel like she's the most qualified," Thomas said. "She's the best fit for the job, and that's my recommendation."

But Commissioner Charles Reynolds said he wanted the board to review all of the applications and look more closely at the African-American applicants before a vote.

"I don't want anybody to look at me and say, 'Now, he's prejudiced,'" said Reynolds, who is black. "I'm not prejudiced. We just don't have any black people working in these [governmental] offices."

Reynolds said he knows of only one African-American worker in city or county government in all of Marion County.

"What they always throw in my face is that [African-American applicants] don't have any experience," he said. "How in the world are you going to get experience if you don't get the job? You have to be taught these jobs."

Mayor Mike Killian agreed with Reynolds and said he "always thought it was terrible that there is not one African-American working in the [county] courthouse."

Thomas, who was hired as the city administrator in July, said he conducted all of the interviews for the job on his own.

"This was the first time I've gone through the interview process, but that's part of my job," he said.

"I'm not saying [Thomas] didn't do a good job," Reynolds said. "I'm saying that we need to take a closer look at some of our African-American applicants because we've got nothing in this county to keep our young people here."

According to the 2010 census, 3.6 percent of Marion County's 28,237 residents are black.

A special called meeting will be held at 5 p.m. CST Tuesday at South Pittsburg City Hall to discuss the issue and review the applicants, officials said.

"We don't need to rush it," Killian said. "The board needs to be satisfied with the decision-making process."

Reynolds said he only wants to find a way to keep young African Americans from leaving the area in search of similar jobs.

"I hope people don't look down on my as a prejudiced person," he said. "I'm not."

Contact Ryan Lewis at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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