OPINION: Job searches have no room for good ‘ole boys

Published 7:19 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2015

As school graduation ceremonies fast approach, I can’t help worrying that Crenshaw County will one day owe graduates an apology.

I’ve covered dozens of graduations over the years. In most of them, students were encouraged to follow their dreams, set goals and seek higher education. In many of them, students were also encouraged to come back home with what they learned and strive to make their communities a better place.

Graduations can sometimes be an exodus for small-town communities. The best and the brightest follow scholarships and vocations to bigger cities. Few of them return because opportunities in their chosen fields seldom exist down the street from mom and dad.

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My concern is about those rare occasions when opportunities do arise here in Crenshaw County, when those high-paying positions open up and only a handful of people hear about them.

Despite having received only two applications, the Brantley Housing Authority has closed its search for applicants for a housing director position that has been open for nearly six months.

Those two applications were from a BHA office assistant who has been acting director since her boss’ death last November and a BHA maintenance worker.

Neither applicant holds a degree the position requires, but, as employees of BHA, both were welcome to apply. The argument is they have acquired adequate experience on the job and the community benefits when employers hire from within the organization.

Also, the authority cannot afford another employee and will have to downsize the office if a director is chosen outside the current personnel.

At their last meeting, board members interviewed the applicants and then voted to close the search, satisfied with the two choices.

The board of five unpaid volunteers hit a stalemate when they tried to choose a candidate. Each candidate received a single vote. One board member abstained. One board member opted to attend a high school game instead of the meeting.

The chair said he had made his decision, but was not comfortable sharing it until all members were present. The matter was tabled. More than two months later, Mayor Bernie Sullivan said he plans to ask the board why the position has not yet been filled.

Perhaps the board should follow the example of the current Crenshaw County Schools superintendent search.

The process to fill the open superintendent position did not involve an election. More importantly, it did not include a “good ‘ole boy” network where lesser-qualified candidates are considered because they know the right people or have a modicum of experience.

The school board enlisted the help of the Alabama School Board Association, who posted the position nationally and obtained at least 30 inquiries.

The association whittled down a pool of 25 applicants to six prospects. Because surveys from parents, employees and board members indicated the school system preferred local candidates to those from outside the southern states, all of the final six hail from Alabama.

The top six applicants may not be natives of Crenshaw County, but the process used to find them leaves no room for errors or apologies.

The process gives me hope that people here are willing to fill high-paying positions with qualified candidates and willing to conduct an unbiased search for candidates.

It also sends a message to our graduates that, if they work hard enough, the opportunities here will arise.