Two members of the Limestone County Water & Sewer Authority Board said Thursday they would have preferred having more time to decide who would be the utility next's top executive.
Board members Mike Hardaway and John Farrah cast dissenting votes Wednesday on a motion to negotiate a contract with Daryl Williamson to become the new chief executive officer. Board chairman Jim Moffatt and board members Ty Smith and Johnny Hatchett voted for Williamson.
“I just wanted more time to think about it,” Hardaway said. “I don't have any heartburn about it; I'll just go with what the majority decided. I think he was well qualified.”
Farrah said three of the candidates interviewed by the board were “neck-and-neck” for his consideration, though he added all were highly qualified. When asked if Williamson was the right man to run the utility, Farrah said, “it remains to be seen.”
“I just wanted to do a little more research (on the candidates),” he said. “All them were great and I was definitely pleased by the caliber of the applicants.”
Should the board reach an employment agreement with Williamson, he would take the reins from Tammy Smith, who has been serving as interim general manager since late October. The board fired its previous general manager, Byron Cook, at its Oct. 27 meeting. Moffatt previously told The News Courier Cook's firing was necessary because a change in direction was needed.
In addition to Cook, the board also voted to eliminate three other management positions, including Assistant Manager Greg Holland, GIS/Construction Manager Brent Brown and Human Resources Manager Ashley Wallace. Brown applied for the CEO position and was interviewed Wednesday.
Moffatt previously said the elimination of those management positions saved the utility about $300,000.
After Cook and Holland were fired, the men filed a seven-count civil lawsuit against all five LCWSA board members, LCWSA attorneys Mark Maclin and Mike Cole and Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough.
Williamson was one of seven candidates interviewed Wednesday by the utility. He is the human resources manager with Columbia Power & Water Systems in Columbia, Tennessee. He previously worked as a sales manager for Pulaski Electric Systems.
In addition to Williamson and Brown, the LCWSA board also interviewed:
• Robert Chandler III, general manager of the Parrish Water Works and Sewer Board in Parrish, Alabama;
• James Uphold, public works manager for the city of Auburn;
• Matt Wilson, distribution manager for LCWSA;
• Tim Mitchell, a LCWSA treatment facility operator; and
• Gary Hyche, a LCWSA chief operator.
When reached by phone Thursday, Williamson said he planned to take the CEO position with LCWSA, but had not submitted a notice to CPWS. He said he would be available to begin his new venture the first week of January.
“I'm honored they chose me to be on the team and I'm honored to be able to serve Limestone County and improve the quality of life,” he said.
He said while Moffatt explained the board would move quickly to name a new CEO, he was surprised “it was that quickly.”
Moffatt said the board gave he and fellow board member Ty Smith the authority to negotiate with Williamson. Smith was the one who made the motion to hire Williamson.
Moffatt said the terms of the contract would be discussed in an open meeting on Dec. 15.
“His resume was impressive. … It really wasn't that easy of a choice,” Moffatt said. “(Williamson) has a strong financial background and I want to listen to his ideas.”
Williamson graduated from Giles County High School and earned his MBA from Middle Tennessee State University. He also has a bachelor's degrees in accounting and human resource management.
Williamson told the board members he believes the CEO is responsible for all human resources issues, including the hiring and firing of employees. He also impressed board members with his knowledge of American Water Works Association. He explained the AWWA produces books and manuals geared toward improving efficiency through establishing benchmarks. Moffatt and Hatchett were surprised to learn such materials were available for $100 or less.
“You can benchmark everything from customer complaints to water main breaks,” Williamson said.
During his interview, Williamson told the board he was aware the utility was in a “state of transition,” and that the biggest hurdle would be to build trust with the staff “in a quick fashion.”
In doing research on the utility, Williamson told board members he had reviewed previous requests for proposals for different projects and added he knew the utility's Brentwood, Tennessee-based engineer Alton Hethcoat “through other channels.”
Williamson also told the board the last meeting minutes posted to the utility's website were from December 2015 and that he would work to update the LCWSA's online presence. He explained many utility customers enjoy the ease of paying utility bills via cellphone and that the LCWSA's site is not mobile friendly.
Williamson said his vision of an organization chart would place the customer at the top, because that's ultimately who the utility works for. He explained he supervises 12 employees now, but would only supervise five managers at LCWSA. All other employees would fall under those five managers.
When asked about his weaknesses, Williamson bluntly told board members he had no direct experience in dealing with the bond market or with the water treatment process.
He added, however, he would be willing to take courses to be a Grade I operator so he would “have an idea about what (employees) are talking about.”
“Finding someone who has a managerial background is harder to find than a treatment operator,” he told the board.