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THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2007
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Consultant may be animal shelter director

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

A former contractor with the Humane Society of the United States could be the next director of Decatur's animal shelter by month's end.

The City Council and Mayor Don Kyle interviewed three candidates Wednesday, and the three councilmen present agreed to extend an offer of employment to Mindy Gilbert of Jasper.

Gilbert is no stranger to Decatur. As a consultant for the city since October, she has been a liaison between the animal shelter board and architects as the city prepares to build a $1 million animal-shelter facility on Beltline Road Southwest.

She also has been instrumental in rewriting job descriptions during an administrative shuffle at the shelter, after the council voted last month to abolish the current director's position and five others effective May 31.

Ken Smith, director of the city's Personnel Department, said he received 31 applications, and he, Kyle and Councilman Ronny Russell selected the best candidates to interview. Russell, the liaison to the animal shelter, and Councilmen David Bolding and Ray Metzger interviewed Gilbert and two others:

  • Anita Anne Ridlehoover of Pocatello, Idaho, assistant manager for Pocatello Animal Control, and an Auburn University graduate with master's degrees in zoological sciences and rehabilitation services.

  • Heather Nicole Strickland of Decatur, a Lawrence County High School graduate and former kennel technician and manager in Salem, Va.

    Kyle said he liked Gilbert's verbal skills, Ridlehoover's experience and educational background and Strickland's enthusiasm.

    "I'd like to hire all three," Russell said. "There were some excellent candidates."

    Gilbert, a graduate of Richland High School in Bakerstown, Pa., has also worked as a cruelty investigator for the Greater Birmingham Humane Society and was the Alabama and Tennessee representative of the Humane Society of the United States before joining Decatur as a consultant.

    Russell said he wants Gilbert to start as soon as possible. Smith said it is unlikely he could complete the paperwork to hire Gilbert before the council meets Monday.

    The council could take up Gilbert's appointment before its May 7 meeting, Russell said.

    Gilbert might not be required to reside in Decatur, if the council amends a late 1990s or early 2000 resolution that mandates all department heads must live in the city limits.

    Danny Melson, Decatur's current animal shelter manager, didn't apply for the revamped director's position, which will have an annual salary between $44,590 and $69,316. Melson is considered a leading candidate for the field-services supervisor at the shelter.

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