JENNINGS — Despite conducting interviews last week for town manager, the search continues for the Town of Jennings.
The town council interviewed Martha Butler, the former Superintendent of Hamilton County Schools, and James Breletic, previously the police chief in Lake Park, Georgia, on Dec. 12.
Following the interviews, the council, though, didn’t approve hiring either applicant. A motion was made to hire Butler but the vote ended 2-2 with Councilman Bill Butler unable to vote in the decision regarding his wife. Samantha Prueter and Jerry Pittman voted in favor of hiring Butler.
Rather, the town will advertise again for the position, changing the listed salary to “negotiable pending experience” in the hope of drawing more candidates experienced in municipal management. Neither Butler nor Breleti had served as a town manager previously and they lacked experience in water and waste water operations.
Butler, who also has previously served on the town council as well as the Hamilton County School Board, said those experiences made her extremely qualified in terms of budgets and income as well as experience in running a business.
“I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to learn,” she said about her lack of knowledge in town management.
Butler also told the council during her interview — her husband was recused from her interview — that connections need to be made with the town’s residents and that is a combined effort.
“People need compassion,” she said. “We need to bond with these people.”
Breletic, meanwhile, served as Lake Park’s police chief from July 2013 until earlier this year. When asked about that departure, which had been labeled a termination in a Valdosta Daily Times story, Breletic said it was a mutual severance. He added he had a letter from Lake Park Mayor Keith Sandlin that stated it was not a termination. Breletic added his separation from the department was mutual due to changes in the town’s political structure.
“What happened in Lake Park is in the past, we are moving forward,” Councilman Charles Barrett said.
Breletic added that in addition to his experience with budgeting and finance as the Lake Park police chief, he also owned and operated two different businesses in Ireland.
But those experiences, as well as his work with law enforcement, firefighting and with water and sanitation weren’t enough to persuade the council.