Last week's work session of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners was a bit more crowded than typical.
While there were few items on the agenda of general concern, the promise of hearing presentations by the four finalists vying to be Dawson County's new manager drew much interest.
Commissioners plan to use the information they gained in the public presentations, along with personal interviews, psychological reviews and peer references to hone in on which of the four will be the best fit as Dawson County's chief operating officer.
"The public presentations were all very positive. The people I've talked to or have received emails from, have all been very positive about the process," said Dawson County Commission Chairman Mike Berg, who has been serving as county manager in the interim following Cindy Campbell's unexpected resignation in November.
"We're planning to go into executive session on Thursday, and hopefully the commissioners will want me to start negotiations to fill the position," he said.
Berg said a vote will not take place until contract negotiations can be reached.
"It's looking like we'll be able to have a vote on Feb. 4," he said.
Among the finalists are four men with varying degrees of government management and leadership experience.
The county received 32 applications through the nationwide search campaign, including three from internal candidates.
Those selected as finalists are Randall Dowling, former Barrow County manager; Bruce Georgia, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army and former Dahlonega city manager; Ronald Rabun, former Lee County manager; and Jason Tinsley, former chief executive and administrative officer for the City of Jefferson.
Berg drew from a stack of cards with their names listed to determine who would begin the presentations, which afforded each candidate 10 minutes to speak of their qualifications and explain why they want to be Dawson County's next manager.
Up first was Rabun, a former city and county manager with a master's degree in public administration from the University of Georgia.
He has more than 30 years of chief executive officer experience and most recently served as Lee County's manager, a position he has held since October 2013.
"I've been many years in these kinds of positions in cities and counties. I worked in other states, other regions of the country, and even some international work, and it's given me a lot of perspective, a lot of skill," he said. "I think that helps me bring something to the table. It allows me to be more effective for you."
Rabun also served as a consultant in the Middle East, Avondale Estates city manager, county administrator and management consultant in Oconee County, S.C., interim contract Milledgeville city manager and Griffin city manager.
"I'm results oriented. I always have been. I can make tough decisions. I can give you tough recommendations," he said. "I will lead. I will give you recommendations. I'll tell you what I think from a management perspective."
Bruce Georgia most recently served as Dahlonega's city manager from December 2013 to August 2014.
A retired colonel in the U.S. Army, he holds a master's of science administration in national strategy from the Air Force War College.
Georgia introduced himself and explained what his goals would be for his first 90 days on the job.
"If appointed my priority in the first 90 days includes establishing trust and confidence...that to me is critical," he said. "I believe the person appointed to this position is fortunate to have an already assembled team on the ground, and I think they'll be in great hands.
"I think leadership is about people, about taking care of people...making sure they've got all the right tools to do the job, the right time to do the job, the right resources. I think it's about creating a culture where people want to come to work and be a part of something bigger than themselves."
Georgia currently lives in Dahlonega.
Dowling of Hoschton holds a master's of public administration from the University of North Texas and has more than 29 years of local government management experience in both city and county government.
He most recently served as county manager for Barrow County, overseeing a $66.5 million annual budget.
Dowling touted his accomplishments as administrator of counties going through growth similar to Dawson County.
"Dawson County is having some projects coming up that are very important, that I have vast experience in and I can help," he said. "Dawson County is growing. It will continue to grow. You need planned growth. You are well on your way."
Previously, he held the position of county administrator in Gordon County for more than 11 years.
"My calling is serving Georgia county governments. I love it. I've being doing it in Georgia for 21 years. There's no other place I'd rather be, and I enjoy the work," he said.
He also has county and city management experience in Berrien County, as well as Indian River and Homestead, Fla.
Tinsley, who described himself as a multi-skilled, results-oriented public administration and finance professional, most recently served as chief executive and administrative officer for the City of Jefferson.
He took a different approach to the public presentation, focusing on his desire to be appointed to the position and how he would approach management, rather than his experience and qualifications.
"It's an all in approach, and an approach that my family embraces. The job and my life here in Dawson County are one in the same," he said. "I have a real passion for what I do. My passion for public service propels me every day to do my best."
A resident of Jackson County, Tinsley held the same position for two years beginning in 2013 in Wayne County, where he implemented the county's first capital budget and strategic plan for building operating reserves.
Previously, he was Habersham County's assistant county manager for seven years and served as senior management and budget analyst in Leon County for two and a half years.