Three in running for Lee position

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The prospects of being named Lee County Administrator improved by 25 percent Thursday for the finalists interviewing for the job.

The first finalist scheduled to interview for the position at 1 p.m. Thursday informed county officials just before noon that he'd withdrawn his name from consideration. The second candidate met with the five-member commission from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

County officials said they'll release the names of the finalists after completing interviews today.

"(The withdrawal) is not unusual at all," Phillip Robertson, a senior vice president with The Mercer Group Inc. management consultant firm, said. "(The candidate) is anticipating an upcoming offer (for another position), and he saw that even if Lee offered him a job he'd most likely take the other.

"He courteously called and said he's no longer a candidate here."

Asked before the afternoon interview if the candidate withdrawal made the commission's job harder or easier, commissioners said they weren't sure.

"I'll be absolutely honest with you: I don't know," Chairman Ed Duffy said, and Betty Johnson and Bill Williams offered affirmation. "This is the first time any of us has been involved in this process."

The commission is charged with finding a replacement for former Administrator Alan Ours, who left in August to take a similar position in Glynn County after four years with the Lee County government.

Veteran Administrator Al Crace, who is believed to be one of the finalists interviewing for the position, is currently fulfilling the administrator duties on an interim basis.

Crace, who was a finalist for the Glynn County job, started work with Lee in September.

Members of the commission said they are keeping open minds as they narrow the search.

"I don't think there's any kind of hurry on our part," Century District Commissioner Rick Muggridge said. "There's no pressure to name anyone (to the position) right away. I don't get the feeling that anyone's anxious.

"We're looking for that great communicator, for a team player. We all know first-hand what a good administrator looks like, so there are certain qualities we're all looking for in the next guy."

Robertson, who sat in with commissioners during Thursday's interview, said he expects Lee officials to be pleased with their decision given the quality of the finalists being interviewed.

"Given the exceptional pool (of candidates), which is a function of the attractive spot Lee County is, I think the community will be pleased with the final choice," the consultant said. "I believe they have such good candidates partly because this board is a pleasure to work with. In this field you find some boards work better together than others, and this is a very cohesive group."

Johnson and Williams, who serve the Leesburg and Redbone districts, respectively, both said after the interview they thought the process "went well," and Dennis Roland said commissioners would complete the interviews with a single goal in mind.

"We're going to do what we think is best for Lee County," the Smithville/Chokee Commissioner said.