Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson is being considered for a job in Texas, three council members confirmed Thursday evening.
Watson is a finalist for a city manager position, and a decision could be made in January, Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan said.
The mayor said he hopes Watson, who started here in August 2010, stays in Oak Ridge.
“Mark Watson has been an outstanding city manager,” Beehan said. “He was a great hire.”
Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn said Watson told her that she could be receiving a call, possibly like a reference check, from a recruiting firm in relation to the Texas job.
She pointed out that council had just awarded Watson a 10 percent pay raise because, in part, some members said they didn’t want to lose him.
Apparently, the 10 percent raise wasn’t enough to keep him, Baughn said.
But Oak Ridge Mayor Pro Tem Jane Miller said Watson did not seek the Texas job.
“They sought him out,” she said.
Miller said Watson told council members about the search on Wednesday, wanting to give them a “heads-up.”
Miller also said she did not want Watson to leave Oak Ridge.
“He’s made some great strides,” she said. “I would certainly hate to lose him at this particular time.”
She cited a range of economic development activities in which she said Watson played a role, including the redevelopment of the mostly empty Oak Ridge Mall, the new Kroger Marketplace shopping center and Woodland Town Center, and the hiring of Oak Ridge Police Department Chief Jim Akagi. She also cited the land bank that city officials are now setting up.
“I’m very positive and hopeful that this will take us somewhere where we need to be,” Miller said.
Baughn said it’s her understanding that Watson is being considered in Pearland, near Houston, where Watson’s son lives.
Watson was not available for comment Thursday evening.
Oak Ridge Today has not yet been able to confirm with Pearland officials or recruiting firm Strategic Government Resources that Watson is being considered for the city manager position there, although the current city manager, Bill Eisen, is retiring at the end of the month after 12 years. During Eisen’s tenure, Pearland’s population increased from 39,000 to more than 103,000, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Note: This story was last updated at 12:15 p.m. Dec. 20.
More information will be added as it becomes available.