Sparks fly during discussion to hire city administrator

Charis Patires
Lake Sun Leader

The position to fill the Lake Ozark City Administrator’s seat hangs in the balance after a tense meeting between city officials that caused one alderman to leave abruptly during a workshop held Wednesday, July 21 at Lake Ozark City Hall.

The workshop was held to discuss a variety of items including who will take City Administrator Dave Van Dee’s position when he retires in October. Van Dee announced his retirement in May after 37 years in public office. His resignation is effective October 29.

During discussions, Alderman Dennis Klautzer asked Lake Ozark Mayor Dennis Newberry to appoint Harrison Fry to fill the position, stating he had the support of the majority of the board. Fry was hired more than a year ago as the Assistant City Administrator/Community Economic Development Director for the City of Lake Ozark. The city spent more than $20,000 to hire executive recruitment firm Baker Tilly to come up with candidates for the position. He was chosen out of 20 candidates.

Klautzer stated there were concerns about how long it would take to find additional candidates and review applications, and everyone felt that Fry was the best man for the job.

Despite a majority of the board supporting the appointment of Fry, Newberry insisted on looking for additional candidates.

“What harm would it do to seek additional applications for the single most important job that we have here?” Newberry said. “We are going to seek other (candidates).”

Things got heated when Alderman Vernon Jaycox expressed his concern that the Mayor was not listening to the consensus of the board.

“I know what the best thing is — we’ve already done it,” Jaycox said to Newberry referring to hiring Fry who has been training to take over the roll. After Newberry stated he was moving forward with posting the job opening, Joycox stormed out of the building.

“What we got is a great result for $22,000 but that doesn’t mean we need to shoehorn him (Fry) into that position,” Newberry said. “I like Harrison as much as you all. Our citizens expect every applicant to be looked into. Posting a job does not require board approval, but I’ve been given every reason why we can’t do it.”

City attorney Chris Rohrer explained to the board that the Mayor has the executive power to make an appointment to fill the position for city administrator which must then be approved by a majority of the board of aldermen.  

“He is not going to appoint Harrison until he does what he wants to do,” Rohrer said.

Originally from Tennessee, Fry most recently completed a city management internship with the city of Paducah, Kentucky, a community of 25,000, where he performed policy review, conducted research and budget analysis, and assisted the city’s leadership team with a variety of special projects and strategic planning initiatives. Fry received both his Masters’ Degree in Public Administration and his Bachelors’ Degree in Management from Murray State University, located in Murray Kentucky.