Meck Co. commissioners interview final county manager candidates

by: Nate Stewart Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mecklenburg County commissioners went behind closed doors Friday morning to interview five candidates for the vacant county manager position.

Bill James, a commissioner on the four-person manager search committee, told Eyewitness News there are four external candidates and one internal candidate. Their names are not being released at this time.

Friday marked the first time commissioners not on the search committee met the candidates in person. Commissioner Trevor Fuller has been outspoken, even frustrated, with the lack of transparency in the search process. Fuller told Eyewitness News he would have liked all commissioners to be involved in the search.

"I would have preferred a different approach from the beginning," said Commissioner Fuller. "I think we have the opportunity to make this the best search we can make it."

Commissioners will interview three candidates Friday and two Saturday morning. The board will also debate the possibility of allowing the public to give input about the final candidates before a decision is made.

Commissioner Karen Bentley said the biggest qualification she will be looking for is experience, adding she hopes the new county manager will "change the culture" -- referring to the firing of previous county manager Harry Jones last spring.

Bentley said she agrees with the search committee's decision to not release the names at this stage of the process out of respect to the candidates.

County employees went to great lengths Friday to protect those identities. Eyewitness News was inside the meeting before it began and watched as paper was taped over the windows so no one could see into the board room. A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer watched the entrances and exits to the board room after commissioners went into closed session.

Commissioner James said while unlikely, there was a possibility a decision could be made by Saturday. Other commissioners said they believed a new hire would not happen before the new year.

After the meeting finished up, Eyewitness News got some insight into the county's interview process.

Channel 9 caught up with commissioners as they finished up their county manager interviews.

This was the first time the full board of Mecklenburg County commissioners laid eyes any of the county manager candidates.

Channel 9 asked what commissioners were looking to find out about each person.

They said they asked about their leadership style, how they view community involvement and issues about economic development.

On Friday night, commissioners said all the candidates they interviewed were highly qualified.

"Like I said, we had a very diverse group of candidates so I think we are very excited about the prospects," said commissioner Ridenhour

Mecklenburg County commissioner Trevor Fuller said, "I am satisfied, absolutely, these people are highly accomplished people and I have no issues with that."

The county is still not releasing any names of the five candidates they are interviewing out of respect to the process.

Commissioners will interview two more candidates starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.