20 apply for Rockwood utility chief job

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood is seeing no shortage of interest in the Rockwood Water, Sewer and Natural Gas manager position.

Twenty people have applied, although officials weren’t publicly naming names.

The Rockwood City Council, which has served as the utility board since it was dissolved last year, narrowed that list down to six to invite for an interview.

During the applicant review last Monday, the council referred to each application by number, not name.

The six include Bryan Fowler, director of wastewater operations in Morristown; David R. Lloyd, general manager for Citizens Gas Utility District; John L. Allen, site construction manager for United Conveyor Corp.; Kimberly E. Ramsey, a senior project adviser with Canon and Canon Inc. who also worked many years as a town engineer and in public works at Farragut; Norman W. Bowman, a project, safety and health manager  for CH2M Hill OMI; and Caren L. Ruffner, a property manager who formerly worked as a storm water program manager for Hamilton County.

“I think we have to get the very best we can,” Councilwoman Peggy Evans said.

One person who was not among the 20 is interim manager Ron Berry. He was asked to step into the role after former manager Rod King resigned last year.

“I think my job was just like it indicated.” he said. “It was an interim position for us to be able to have some time to heal and take care of the employees until such time we could get a new manager in.

 “As much as I enjoy it and like it, I think it would be doing harm because it would seem like a political (step),” Berry added.

Building inspector Jim Hines chose not to give the Roane County News access to the full list of applicants on Friday. The names of the six were obtained from another city official.

Hines’ concern was that disclosing applicants’ names early might be detrimental to their current employment.

Council members disagreed on whether a new manager should get a contract.

“I think they have to work at the will of the board,” Councilman Bill Thompson said.

Evans said she believed the contract with former manager Rod King was part of the problem.

Councilman Harold Ishman asked why it would be fair to have a contract for Rockwood Electric Utility manager Kendell Bear but not the water, sewer and gas manager.

Evans replied that the electric utility doesn’t have the wasteful spending she believes the water, sewer and gas utility has had.

“Don’t tell me about the waste at REU,” Ishman countered.

Rockwood City Council members have had strong debate whether the city should re-establish a five-member utility board prior to or after hiring a manager.

Mayor James Watts has pushed for the reinstatement of the board prior to a manager being selected, putting the first reading of an ordinance to do so on the Monday, Feb. 28, Rockwood City Council agenda.

Watts was a proponent of allowing a new board to select the manager they would work with.

Many members of council — particularly Dudley Evans, Bill Thompson and Peggy Evans, wanted to move forward with looking at applications and selecting a manager before second reading of the ordinance to establish a new water board.

Thompson has said he believes it should be the city council’s responsibility to make the manager decision instead of passing it on to someone new.