Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt said more time is needed in the search for a new economic-development director to succeed David Meeks, who retired Sept. 30.

"I don't expect an appointment until late February or early March," Schonhardt said.

According to Hilliard's charter, only the positions of finance and law director require the consent of Hilliard City Council, said law director Tracy Bradford. Others, including economic-development director, are discretionary appointments by the mayor, she said.

The director position does not have to be posted, Bradford said, because as a cabinet-level position, the mayor "can use whatever method deemed appropriate to find the right person for the position."

Schonhardt said he would conduct his own interviews, but nobody has been interviewed as of Feb. 6.

"I am looking for people I trust, people who can be part of a team (and) who have knowledge of Hilliard," he said.

Schonhardt said the person he selects will not be required to apply for the job and he would not comment on the process of identifying potential directors.

Meeks had served as director since 2002 when former Mayor Tim Ward selected him.

After Meeks' retirement, Schonhardt indicated that he wanted the position filled by the end of the year but because of the need to further vet candidates and other considerations, additional time is required, he said.

"We haven't missed a beat thus far, and I am confident we will continue the economic-development efforts as vigorously as we have in the past," Schonhardt said.

However, some Hilliard City Council members said they are concerned at the growing length of time without an economic-development director and the lack of a deputy director, a position found in other city departments.

"I'm a little more than concerned that it's been almost a year since we've had a (day-to-day) development director," Councilman Les Carrier said Jan. 30.

Meeks was on leave for several months prior to his retirement.

Carrier questioned the city's spending for on-demand development consulting at a City Council meeting Jan. 23.

The administration had authorized spending up to $49,500 for consulting services related to development as needed through Dec. 31, according to finance director Dave Delande.

Expenses up to that amount may be made without the approval of City Council, according to law director Tracy Bradford.

About $17,000 remained unspent before the authorization expired Dec. 31, Bradford said.

Hilliard paid Land Strategies $32,500 last year for consulting related to development, she said.

Bradford said she had not been asked to establish spending in 2017 for development-related consulting.

Schonhardt said Land Strategies performed minimal consulting in January. He said he expects a purchase order of no more than $5,000 would be necessary for consulting in 2017 before an economic-development director is named.

Carrier said the delay in naming a director means a deputy director should be considered.

"I feel good about how we are running things with the new structure (in the service department) but not so much (in development)," Carrier said.

Last month, Schonhardt named the city's first deputy city engineer and filled the position of deputy service director that had been vacant since 2009.

Schonhardt said any decision on whether to establish a deputy economic-development director would be considered based on the individual selected as director.

"I don't think we need to spend money or create jobs unless there is a demonstrated need," he said. "Operational efficiency and spending taxpayer dollars expeditiously is still an important directive of my administration."

Councilman Tom Baker said although he is concerned the city still lacks an economic-development director, time is needed "to find the right person."

"I think (the administration) could communicate to us a little more (about the progress) ... but I know (naming a development director) takes awhile. It's a tough decision," Baker said.

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