published Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Chris Dorsey accepts Signal Mountain manager job

Chris Dorsey
Chris Dorsey
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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A week after turning down the same position in East Ridge, Chris Dorsey has agreed to become Signal Mountain's town manager.

The five-person Town Council voted unanimously Monday to offer the job to Dorsey, one of Signal Mountain's three final candidates.

Dorsey, who was Red Bank's city manager from 2005 to 2011, accepted the position and will earn a base salary of $90,376. He and the council still need to negotiate elements such as vacation time, car allowance and insurance coverage.

Dorsey is currently a budget director in Pasco County, Fla., and he isn't sure when he can leave that job. But he expects to be in Signal Mountain by the middle of June.

"I want to have a nice, clean stopping point," he said of his current job.

Dorsey will make about $6,000 more per year than departing manager Honna Rogers, but he also leaves $30,000 on the table. On May 4, members of the East Ridge City Council offered Dorsey $120,000 per year. He turned that down.

Dorsey, who turns 50 on Friday, said he accepted the Signal Mountain job because it feels like "a good fit" and is close to home. Even though he now lives in Florida, his family stayed in Hixson.

He would not say why he declined East Ridge's offer, but job security may be a factor. By reputation, the Signal Mountain Council is easier on its managers than the leaders of East Ridge are.

Since Rogers took the Signal Mountain job in March 2008, East Ridge has had five city managers and is looking for its sixth. Public Safety Director Eddie Phillips is serving as interim manager until councilmen can find a permanent replacement for Tim Gobble, who resigned on Feb. 7.

"You always want to see what type of council you're working with," Dorsey said. "[The Signal Mountain council is] a good group of people. They have a clear vision of what they want to do."

Dorsey lost his previous manager job after a fallout with the council.

On behalf of Signal Mountain, a consultant from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service talked to former Red Bank Mayor Monty Millard and building inspector Chuck Martin about why the city fired Dorsey. Vice Mayor Susan Robertson said alliances had been formed, and Dorsey was on the wrong side of a majority. In Signal Mountain, he won't have that problem.

"In my seven years," she said, "we have never had factions."

Robertson said the council chose Dorsey out of 35 candidates because he is experienced and understands how to manage money. The council also liked how he interacted with people -- with the council during his job interview and with Signal Mountain residents during a meet and greet.

"He's got a youthful energy," she said, "which I think will serve the city well."

Dorsey will be required to live in Signal Mountain. It's a small town, Robertson said. It's a tight-knit community, and residents expect to know their manager well.

Dorsey and some of the council members have known each other for years. As local government leaders, they met at regional conferences and meetings.

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