OKTIBBEHA COUNTY — The board of supervisors could hire a new county administrator as soon as this week.
After receiving 24 applications for the position, supervisors interviewed four finalists in a special-call open session Monday. However, county officials did not alert the media about the meeting, nor were the interviews livestreamed or posted later on the county’s YouTube channel — even though most supervisors’ meetings in the last two years have been.
Garrard and board attorney Rob Roberson both refused to release the finalists’ names or resumes to The Dispatch upon request after the public interviews. A source with direct knowledge of the interviews provided The Dispatch the resumes on the condition of anonymity.
Finalists include former Kemper County Administrator Yolanda Cook, an ex-medical center CEO Sam Ellard, Oktibbeha County Comptroller Delois Farmer and Mississippi State University Police Department Assistant Director Mandy Netadj.
The county administrator oversees county departments, the county’s budget and makes policy recommendations to the board of supervisors.
Cook ended a five-year stint as Kemper County’s administrator in January, where she oversaw a $8 million budget and 10 county departments. Before that, she worked stints as community outreach coordinator for Health Help Mississippi in Starkville, program coordinator for Noyce STEM Teachers Scholars in Starkville, career center manager at Columbus High School and admissions counselor at the Mississippi University for Women, among other positions.
She holds a doctorate of public policy and administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management from Mississippi State, as well as a master’s of public policy and administration from MSU, a master’s of business administration from Delta State and a bachelor of business administration from MUW. She currently lives in Columbus.
Ellard, of Kosciusko, was chief executive officer for Riverland Medical Center in Ferriday, Louisiana, from November 2018 to February of this year, where he previously served as chief operations officer and chief financial officer. There, he led the development and construction of a 61,000 square-foot replacement hospital and a 17,000 square-foot medical office building, his resume says. He has also worked as director of finance for Baptist Medical Center in Kosciusko and comptroller for Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
He holds a master’s of business administration from Millsaps College and a bachelor of accounting from the University of Mississippi.
Farmer, of Starkville, has worked for the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors since 1998, currently serving in the administration office as the comptroller and board secretary. She helps manage the county’s financial assets and bank statements and assists in budget preparation. She previously worked as bookkeeper and the deputy elections clerk.
She holds a bachelor’s in business administration from Rust College.
Netadj has served as MSUPD’s assistant director since May 2014, where she oversees department finances and prepares its $3.2 million annual budget. She has previously worked stints in four other roles at MSU since 2004, most notably assistant director for Student Services and business manager for the Office of Admissions and Scholarships.
She holds both a doctorate and master’s degree in public policy and administration from MSU, as well as a bachelor’s in psychology.
“(This county) is where my family has decided to stay,” Netadj, a Starkville native, told The Dispatch. “It’s a community we’ve grown to love. I just want to be able to give back in some way to this place we call home. … I have experience in overseeing external revenue sources and grant writing with my current job. I feel like I know the rules. I know the laws, (human resources and purchasing. Once I overcome the learning curve, I feel confident I could really assist and serve the county.”
The Dispatch reached out to all four candidates multiple times by phone and text message. Cook, Ellard and Farmer did not respond by press time.
Williams told The Dispatch on Friday the board has not yet decided who it will hire.
“All the candidates seem to meet the minimum qualifications,” he said, declining to comment further.
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said he believes the entire interview process
“The only downside is that all candidates are worthwhile, but you can only choose one,” Trainer said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy we’re moving along at this point. … You just have to be very cautious, very mindful and very thoughtful because that person will be in one of your top leadership positions in the county, so
it’s definitely something you shouldn’t take lightly.”
Bricklee Miller, who represents District 4, said she wants to hire an administrator that can most effectively oversee financial and managerial operations.
“The standouts were individuals that had strong accounting, financial and management backgrounds that had made positive differences in the businesses they were associated with,” Miller said. “That is the type of person I hope the county chooses as a proven leader.”