County commission interviews administrator finalists

Published 3:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2018

The five finalists vying to become the next Pike County administrator have now been interviewed by the commission.

The candidates each discussed their strengths, weaknesses and experience with the commission over the course of the three-hour meeting Wednesday night.

The candidates for the position are Eric R. Pruit, MBA Deputy Director of the Jefferson County Department of Revenue; Dr. LaKerri Mack, director of the Pike County Boys and Girls Club board; Jason Bryan, Opp city planner; McKenzie Wilson, assistant to the Pike County administrator; and Dawn McLendon, accountant at a local firm.

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Pruitt said he is currently managing a department with a comparable budget to that of Pike County, approximately $12 million.

“I’ve been in that position since 2003,” Pruitt said. “ … My background is in applying the laws, rules and regulations in place in as equitable a way as possible. I currently manage a staff of 150 people.”

Pruitt said he would put his experience of analyzing budgets and working for county government to use if hired to the position.

“My training as a budget analyst makes me look for avenues that can be reduced without impacting service,” Pruitt said. “The most important thing is to listen to and help your commissioners navigate challenges.”

Although he has spent much of his time in Shelby and Jefferson Counties, Pruitt said he can acclimate quickly to new communities, having traveled much during his youth.

“My father retired from the Air Force,” Pruitt said. “I was born in California and graduated high school in Germany … I find it would be a wonderful opportunity to apply my skills to help a wonderful part of this country Pike County.”

Mack said she has a history in service and education.

I have been in education for the past 10 years between Tuskegee, Auburn and Troy universities, and I’ve also been working in my community for all those years,” Mack said. “I am the director of New Hope Brothers and Sisters Benevolent Society and board director of the Pike County Boys and Girls Club”

Mack has an educational background in public administration, public policy and criminal justice. She teaches in all of those areas currently at Troy University.

Mack said she is applying for the administrator position because she is a “servant leader” and she wants to serve the people of Pike County.

“I love the people of Pike County and I would love to have the opportunity to serve them in this capacity,” Mack said. “ … The main job is to serve the commission and the citizens of Pike County.”

Bryan said his experience as planner the City of Opp would translate well to performing the duties of a county administrator, as well as serving on the “front lines.”

“I’ve been the city planner in Opp for 7 years; I’ve been in administration on various levels for going on 16 years now,” Bryan said. “I actually worked through construction in college, so I know what it means to be on the front lines or to know what to expect when working with policies and procedures based on whatever the elected officials need.”

Bryan said the Opp annual budget is similar to the county’s budget.

“Dealt with a budget this size as well as infrastructure issues, which everyone seems to be having,” Bryan said. “I’ve always taken the view that I give the elected officials the best advice and implement whatever policies they come up with. Implementation is key to everything that we’re doing. We need to think about the maintenance of something, not just building. We need to understand the life cycle.”

Wilson is the lone internal option for the commission, and she said her 20 years of experience with the commission makes her the most ready to take the position.

“I have been working here at the Pike County Commission since 1998,” Wilson said. “I started as a part-time administrative assistant, then I moved to the accountant position after two years. I moved into Human Resources in 2005. About five years ago, the commission changed my job to include human resources, the safety program that the county does and the assistant to the administrator.”

Wilson has served as the interim administrator since Harry Sanders officially retired on March 24 after 16 years of service. She said her involvement in projects the county has going on right now is another reason she can come in and do the job.

“I am actively involved in all the big projects that they’ve got going on – the Rex Lumber project, the new jail – and I’ve been involved in that since the beginning, even when Harry was here. I’ve been doing administrator duties such as minutes and the agenda for the commission for the last few years. I already have contacts with all of our county employees and good working relationships with the elected officials here in Pike County.”

McLendon said her background in business administration and accounting would make her a good fit to fill the position.

“I graduated with my MBAfrom Troy University in 2009,” McLendon said. “I went to work for Jackson Thornton and stayed there for about five years and then ended up taking a position back here in Pike County … I work with a lot of governmental audits. I think with my years of experience in helping people with their books, consultation and finances, I think I could bring a lot of financial experience to the job.”

Each candidate was interviewed behind closed doors to preserve good name and character during the interview process.

The commission will now consider the interview responses and choose a candidate at an upcoming meeting.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the commission is Monday, June 11, upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and the business meeting will begin at approximately 6 p.m.