Residents and community leaders interested in hearing from the four finalists for the position of city manager filled the Joplin City Council chambers Monday during a public meet and greet with those candidates.

The four candidates arrived in Joplin over the weekend for a tour Sunday of the city and dinner with council members and city administrators.

On Monday morning, each of the candidates talked with senior city staff and were interviewed by reporters before the public session.

"Last night, we had some time together," Mayor Gary Shaw said of the council and candidates. "You can read things on paper, you can watch videos and so forth, but when you have the opportunity to meet each candidate, shake hands and talk to them, I enjoyed doing that."

The candidates:

• Darin Chappell, the current city administrator for Chillicothe in northern Missouri. He has previously been the city administrator for Bolivar and Seymour, as well as a senior analyst for a local government program in Springfield. He has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Missouri State University.

• Nick Edwards, a native of Joplin, worked the past nine years for the city of Lee’s Summit, near Kansas City, with the last two years as assistant city manager there. He has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Missouri Southern State University.

• Shawn Henessee, who currently is the county administrator for Clark County, Washington. He was previously the city administrator at Pleasant Hill, the county administrator for Marinette County, Wisconsin, and assistant director for Jackson County, Missouri. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wichita State University, a master’s degree in political science from the University of Kansas and a law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

• Leonard Sossamon, who was county administrator for Hernando County, Florida, for seven years. He previously was a consultant for Jordan Brown Management Corp., the chief operating officer of Alliance Development Group and founder of the redevelopment company Hunter and Brown Inc., as well as county administrator for Newberry, South Carolina, and Concord, North Carolina.

One of those in attendance at the meet and greet, Joplin School District Superintendent Melinda Moss, said, "I think we are looking for a candidate who understands the strong connection between the city and the school, and that when you have strong school districts, then you are able to strengthen your whole city and vice versa."

Representatives of the school district and the city most recently worked together on a deal for the city to give land in Dover Hill Park to the district for a new elementary school to replace Columbia and West Central schools. That project will be submitted April 7 to voters, who will be asked to approve a $25 million bond issue for it.

Toby Teeter, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, said he had a brief opportunity to ask the candidates about their experience with business and talent attraction efforts, and other matters related to economic development. He said he provided a synopsis of that discussion to the council.

"I would like to see a city manager with firsthand experience in a community of similar size and trajectory," he said. "That would mean experiences with growth, changing demographics, knowledge-economy workforce attraction, entrepreneurial ecosystem development, streamlined city permitting and licensing, public investments in livability and Smart City technologies," as well as strategic community branding and marketing for both business and talent attraction.

Tony Robyn, director of business attraction and retention for the MOKAN partnership, a Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce initiative, said he hopes the next city manager will be tasked to oversee implementation of the community's already specified vision for a post-tornado recovery Joplin.

As part of that plan, "Joplin will move from traditional industrial and commercial development to that next level of community development," he said. That will include entrepreneurial efforts, community development, trails, walkability, "all of the things we talked about after the Joplin tornado," he said. "These are the next steps, nearly a decade later."

The Joplin City Council met in closed session with the candidates Monday afternoon. Another closed meeting was held by the council at 6 p.m. to discuss the candidates.

The mayor said the council members then will take time to think about choices and that no decision would be made Monday.

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