A little over two months from now, Mike Gannon could have left his “dream job” to take over a position that has been somewhat of a nightmare of late.
Gannon, who is in the middle of his third four-year term as Cannon County Executive, is one of five candidates remaining in the search for a new executive director of the Upper Cumberland Human Resources Agency.
On Wednesday, the field was narrowed from 11 candidates to five during a series of interviews in Cookeville, where the UCHRA home office is located.
Gannon was chosen as one of the five finalists along with Putnam County Executive Kim Blaylock, State Rep. Bill Harmon (D-Dunlap), NHC Healthcare of Cookeville Executive Director Donna York and Lee Webb, current community services director at UCHRA.
Those five finalists will be interviewed again on March 7. Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick, who is on the nine-member selection committee, said the committee will likely narrow the list of candidates down to two at that time. Those two will be presented to the full UCRHA board, who will select the next executive director.
Mayor Patrick said it is hoped the new executive director will be on the job by May 1.
The UCHRA currently has over 500 employees throughout the 14-county Uppper Cumberland region with 100 working in the central office in Cookeville. It was established by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1973 to be the delivery system for human resources in the 14 counties of the region.
The programs operated by UCHRA initially included job training and transportation. During ensuing years, the UCHRA has expanded to supply a wide range of services that use a combination of funds from federal, state and local organizations.
The leadership situation at the agency has been a source of controversy over the last few years. Long-time executive director Phyllis Bennett became ill and was replaced by Ruth Ann Woolbright on a temporary basis. Bennett was later hired by the agency as a consultant.
Gannon said Thursday he only submitted himself for consideration because he was encouraged to apply by a large number of the agency’s employees and fellow board members.
“Whether I am offered the job or not, I would like to see the agency get back on solid footing and get it back to doing what it is supposed to do, which is helping the needy and the poor,” Gannon said. “I’d also like to make the working conditions better for the employees who work in all of UCHRA’s offices throughout the region.”
Even if he is offered the position, Gannon stressed there is no guarantee he will accept it.
“I would rather be county executive than governor. That is how much I love this job. I have been working most of my entire adult like helping to make life better for the people of Cannon County and to make Cannon County a better place to live and work.
“There is a lot I still want to see accomplished here, so I have very mixed emotions about this situation. Cannon County is where my heart is and where it will always be.”
If Gannon is selected for the job and accepts, the Cannon County Commission would name an interim county executive. Interested persons have to be nominated by one of the 10 county commissioners to be considered.
That person would serve until Sept. 1. County voters would select a person to fill the remainder of Gannon’s current term (two years) during this year’s County General Election in August.