Rock Hill leaders named three finalists Monday night for the city manager job - two veteran in-house candidates and a deputy city administrator from western Arkansas.
The trio consists of Rock Hill utilities chief Jimmy Bagley, city finance director David Vehaun and Ray Gosack, a deputy city administrator in Fort Smith, Ark.
After emerging from a closed-door meeting at City Hall, Mayor Doug Echols said council members hope to make a choice in the next two weeks.
An initial field of 81 applicants was cut to 24 and then 12 before reaching the current stage.
"The hard part is still before us," Echols told The Herald. "We've got three excellent candidates. There's still reviewing to be done."
The search began after Carey Smith, 67, announced his retirement in February following eight years as Rock Hill's top unelected official.
Smith's last scheduled day is Oct. 1, but he's offered to stick around for as long as needed.
"We interviewed several quality candidates," Councilman John Black said Monday night. "It was nice to see two of our guys stack up so good against a very good pool. We have a tough choice."
Echols said there are no plans for the finalists to appear before the public. Before Smith was hired in 2002, the city held a meet-and-greet reception to let contenders introduce themselves.
Over the summer, Echols held a series of neighborhood meetings to gather suggestions from residents about the qualities they wanted in the next city manager.
Rock Hill's city manager oversees more than 700 employees, a $164 million annual budget, an electricity system and water treatment system that sells water to most of York County. Smith is paid $171,683 a year.
Vehaun and Bagley were mentioned from the beginning as logical candidates. Both men joined the city in 1989 and ascended to their high-ranking positions, with Vehaun now in charge of the budget and Bagley responsible for the electric system.
The outside candidate is Gosack, Fort Smith's deputy city administrator since 1999. In June, Gosack was named one of five finalists for the city manager job in Oak Ridge, Tenn., according to The Oak Ridger newspaper.
It's a positive sign that two in-house candidates reached the final stage, said City Councilman Kevin Sutton.
"It's been no secret for many years that I have pushed for internal candidates," Sutton told The Herald. "As positions open, I always like to see us promote from within. It's good to see both of them have made it this far. They are strongly being considered, along with the gentleman from Arkansas."
S.C. law requires cities to announce the names of finalists.
Information relating to "not fewer than the final three applicants" must be made available to the public, according to the state Freedom of Information Act.