CUMBERLAND COUNTY – Crossville City Manager David Rutherford found himself on the hot seat in Cumberland County this week.
Council member Danny Wyatt lead a charge to have him suspended, a move that received official consideration during a special-called meeting Friday afternoon. For now, Rutherford is safe. The vote to suspend him failed. But a laundry list of concerned were aired; including one that the city needs to operate more conservatively, after council felt its top leader “missed the mark” in recommending a 20-percent tax increase last fiscal year.
Wyatt and council member Pam Harris also said they were unhappy with the fact that Rutherford has yet to make his permanent home in Cumberland County since his initial hire in September 2013, that he pushes his own personal agenda and has poor interpersonal relationship skills.
“There’s no big smoking gun,” Wyatt said Friday. “I’ve simply lost confidence in Mr. Rutherford.”
Rutherford has served nearly two-and-a-half years in his capacity in Crossville, taking over the city’s top position after former city manager Bruce Wyatt resigned amidst political struggles. Rutherford served as city administrator in McMinnville for six years prior to taking the job in Cumberland County.
In a 2014 performance review, Rutherford scored 4.46 out of 5, and “all members (of the council) concurred that Mr. Rutherford has done an excellent job,” according to minutes from a January council meeting that year. He also received a raise – a bump of $10,000 to $95,000 a year.
But things have apparently gone sour.
“At this point, I am not convinced (these) interpersonal relationship issues can be salvaged,” said Harris.
But ultimately the push to suspend him failed. Councilman Jesse Kerley said he, too, has concerns, but the council has not given Rutherford clear direction in order to correct. Mayor James Mayberry cited Rutherford’s success in forwarding relationships with the county and chamber that’s led to some economic development success. He also said roughly 50 employees were “not afraid to stand up to support Mr. Rutherford” and morale among workers has improved.
“I think that’s a pretty strong statement,” Mayberry said.
While the issue is stymied for now, what negative impact this will ultimately have on Crossville and Cumberland County’s renewed economic development efforts remains to be seen. The city has had two major announcements thus far this year – in January, automotive packager, warehouser and distributer SKF said it was moving all its North American operations to Crossville’s CoLinx, investing at least $3.9 million and adding 145 jobs, and Apex Clean Energy, an independent renewable energy company, said it would build a new wind turbine farm there that’s expected to measure as the largest in Tennessee. The project represents an investment upward of $100 million, and when at capacity, will generate power for roughly 20,000 homes each year.
And more projects are in the works. Brad Allamong, president of the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber, said in December they’re working on at least eight others that he believes “will have positive results.”
Rutherford had approximately one year left on his contract with the city, according to the Crossville Chronicle. If fired without cause, it includes a provision for six-months severance pay.