By Dave Ongie, News Editor
As the Johnson City Development Authority continues to transition into a standalone entity, board members met virtually last Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of hiring Dianna Cantler as the JCDA’s executive director. By the end of the meeting, the board had voted unanimously to extend Cantler an offer to become the interim executive director while work continues to solidify the responsibilities and expectations attached to the new role.
Cantler has served as the director of development for the JCDA, and with the organization preparing to separate from the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership at the end of June, Cantler has emerged as a top candidate to lead the JCDA into the future.
At the outset of Thursday’s meeting, board member Tembra Aldridge shared with the board that Johnson City staff attorney Sunny Sandos had consulted with Steve Willis, the city’s director of human resources, and the two shared the opinion that the JCDA was not required to follow the city’s policy in regards to advertising and filling its executive director position.
“We are free, basically, to go ahead and make a hire,” Aldridge said. “We don’t necessarily have to follow the rules at all.”
Joe Wise, who represents the City Commission on the JCDA board, followed up by sharing his communication with Willis on the matter. Wise stressed that what he heard didn’t contradict what Aldridge was told, but instead was a case of getting “slightly different answers to slightly different questions.”
“What was said to me is that it would be highly recommended to go through an open process,” Wise said. “It wasn’t a requirement.”
As the meeting progressed, concerns arose about the cumbersome nature of the job description for the executive director position, which was reviewed previously by the board during a meeting earlier this month. Board member Tracy Johnson said the job responsibilities as they are currently defined might require the creation of two positions, an assessment Johnson said Cantler concurred with during a previous discussion.
“We may be looking at two different jobs here, one being executive director of the JCDA, which has a different skill set than somebody being over the Main Street program,” Johnson said.
Board member Hank Carr echoed those concerns, and cautioned against rushing into such an important decision with so much left to be determined in relation to the direction of the JCDA moving forward.
“We may have exactly the right team in place today, but I think we owe it to ourselves to finish things correctly,” Carr said. “For me, I believe the interim title is the right solution.”
Carr made a motion to hire Cantler on an interim basis that would not extend past Nov. 30. He said his motivation for limiting the interim period was to provide a deadline for the board to establish a clear mission as well as a plan to monitor and measure the performance of the executive director.
The JCDA board is scheduled to meet again next month.