By Bill Short
The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously this week to employ Samuel C. Underwood of Olive Branch, Miss., as the city’s new Human Resources director.
Board members took the action Monday night during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Bethany Huffman and seconded by Alderman Frankie Dakin.
Underwood will replace Jeanne Decker, who resigned last Friday to accept a position in the private sector. He was one of three applicants interviewed on April 2 by City Manager Thomas Christie, who recommended him for the position.
Underwood has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and expects to obtain his Master of Business Administration degree in August.
Thus far in his career, Christie said, Underwood has managed as many as 60 employees, prepared policies and procedures, performed exit interviews and developed orientation packets. While working for the city of Olive Branch, he has recruited, tested and hired employees.
Christie said Underwood is also a licensed insurance agent, which should “position him well” to administer employee benefits and manage the insurance policy.
Underwood will be paid $53,019.77 a year, which is the “beginning amount” in the current salary range for Millington’s city department directors. Christie said that is approximately $7,000 less than the “next closest” department head.
In response to a question by Alderman Mike Caruthers, the city manager said the vacant position was advertised March 21-April 1.
When Alderman Thomas McGhee asked how many applications were submitted, Christie said he does not know the total number, because Decker did all the “pre-screening.”
“The only ones she brought me were those that met all the criteria in the job description,” he recalled. “She did tell me that there were at least three, perhaps, four others who did not meet the criteria.”
When Caruthers asked if there were any local applicants the board could have employed, instead of “going all the way to Mississippi,” Christie said none who Decker told him met the educational criteria. Some had “perhaps one year of college,” he said, and some had an associate’s degree, but none had a bachelor’s degree.
“If you had left it open another week or two,” Caruthers asked, “do you think you might have gotten more applicants?”
“It’s hard to say,” Christie replied. “I wouldn’t know.”
When Caruthers asked how long it takes him to drive from Olive Branch to Millington, Underwood said approximately 35 minutes.
The alderman recalled that, when the previous board members were preparing the new City Charter, they discussed the future possibility of requiring all department directors to be residents of the city. Underwood said he is willing to move to Millington.
In response to a final question by Caruthers, Christie said no city vehicle or mileage allowance is included with the position.
“That was not provided previously,” he noted, “and that was not discussed with any of the candidates.”