The Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce is continuing its search for a new executive after the initial job posting garnered only seven applications. 

“I was disappointed,” said interim Chamber CEO David Rutherford during the Aug. 12 meeting of the Chamber board. “I was thinking we’d have 25 to 30.”

The job was listed with the state and national Chamber of Commerce organizations, with a deadline of July 12. Since that time, a steering committee screened the applications, recommending three individuals for interviews.

Rutherford expressed concern the hiring process had become political, with individuals attempting to influence the hiring process. 

“That is not want you need for the Chamber,” Rutherford said, adding the organization was attempting to reorganize and restructure after a period of dysfunction. 

“I’m afraid you’re going to end up with the same thing with the Chamber split,” said Rutherford. 

Rutherford suggested the current search process had been tainted and recommended the board throw out all the applicants. Individuals still interested in the position could apply again, he said. 

Other options were to disqualify two local candidates and interview an outside candidate; disqualify the outside candidate and interview two local candidates; or issue a new job listing.

Bob Weber said he didn’t believe the board needed to start from scratch. Instead, he said the board needed to issue a second job advertisement and move forward with interviews of the three recommended candidates or interview all six candidates.

“That’s just a first interview,” he said. “Then we see what else comes through with the additional advertisement.”

Steven Douglas disagreed with moving forward with interviews while still advertising the position.

“Aren’t you saying, ‘You didn’t meet the qualifications,’” Douglas said. 

Weber said it was a distinction between qualified and highly qualified.

“I don’t think the search committee felt any of the candidates were ‘highly qualified,’” he said. “That’s why you would put it out there for another round.”

Weber added, “But you interview them, and you’re straight up with them.”

The new job posting changes the qualifications from a four-year bachelor’s degree to a bachelor’s degree or hold or be in the process of obtaining Institute for Organization Management certification. The new advertisement also seeks candidates with 10 years of Chamber or management experience. After discussion, the board changed those requirements to a relevant degree and relevant management experience.

The salary range was also defined at $60,000 to $85,000, with the potential for performance incentives. 

The new posting would be advertised on Indeed and Monster job sites. 

Weber moved to interview the three candidates and move forward with the new job posting. Josh Stone supported the motion. 

Asa Reese said he was concerned to hear Rutherford say the process had been “tainted.” 

“Why would we interview the tainted pool?” he asked.

Stone agreed that was concerning, adding it was the first he’d heard of a problem.

“It’s a small town. People are going to talk. That’s unfortunate,” Stone said. “If we could do everything in a vacuum, it would be a lot better. But those comments, they don’t represent how I’m looking at this job search.”

Rutherford said his concern was either local candidate would result in a split board. 

“It’s important for you to be comfortable with whoever you hire,” he said. 

Crawford said there was a concern the Chamber was missing out on other applicants by not seeking a wider pool. 

Reese said, “I’ve waited six months to interview before. This is a critical position, and we should take our time.”

He recommended keeping the three candidates and stay in touch with them while opening up the search to a wider pool.

“We’re not throwing those three candidates out. We’re in the process of modifying what we’re looking for and recasting the net,” Reese said.

The clock is ticking on finding a new Chamber executive. Rutherford agreed to serve up to six months, with his commitment expiring around Thanksgiving. 

Reese said expanding the pool of candidates could bring new contenders to the job. If not, the board could return to the existing three candidates and see what could be done to enhance the top candidate’s skills.

The motion to interview the three candidates and immediately re-advertise the job passed with Douglas voting no. The board also approved the new job announcement. 

The board also determined it would conduct the interviews with the steering committee to observe. The interviews will not be open to the public. Candidates will be provided questions in advance. 

 

 

 

 

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.