“I like the ambiance of a small town ... it is the bedrock of the Democratic experience,” he said. “I think with my training, my knowledge and my experience I can make a difference in Fairmont. I turned down offers in others places because I didn't think I could make much of an impact.”
Proctor, a former county manager in Clay County, Ga., beat out four finalists for the job, including interim Town Manager Katrina Tatum, who has served in that position since 2003. Tatum was fired Tuesday after the board voted 4 to 2 to hire Proctor.
Proctor, who lives in Ft. Gaines, Ga., was the last one standing out of 19 people who applied when the search began for a third time in February. The two previous searches for a permanent manager were suspended after the board learned there wasn't enough money to pay a manager.
Mayor Charles Kemp showed Proctor around Thursday, helping him look for a home.
“I've been impressed with his affability and friendliness,” Kemp said. “We met a dozen or more people today and he has just been down-to-earth and the kind of person a Fairmont resident can relate to. I'm extremely comfortable with him.”
Proctor, 58, has 27 years of experience in county and municipal government. He also was in the U.S. Army. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration, a master's degree in public administration and a doctorate in public policy.
“In most cases, small towns get short shrift when it comes to experience manager,” Proctor said. “They often get someone just out of college, who stays a few years and moves onto a larger city. But I want to take what I know and together with the board and people of Fairmont help move this town harmoniously into the 21st century.”
Proctor, who begins his new job July 3, will earn $48,000 a year. He currently does consulting work. Before that he served as Clay County manager from July 2002 to June 2005.
Proctor said his decision to leave the Clay County post was something that he and the board there “mutually agreed” upon. But Donna Miller, the editor of The Citizen News, a regional newspaper in Edison, Ga., that serves Clay County, said Proctor was pushed out by board politics.
“He did a really good job and was one of the best county managers Clay County has ever had,” said Miller, whose husband Titus used to live in Fairmont. “Fairmont can probably use someone like Blake to help it come out of the funk it is in now. His only problem was he is not very political. He just didn't kiss a lot of butt and that was his downfall here.”
Miller said that politics was the reason Proctor was indicted last year on a misdemeanor charge for being reimbursed $36.96 for a trip he did not take.
She said Proctor repaid the money when he was made aware of the error, but a commissioner who did not like Proctor pushed for the indictment anyway.
“It was really a witch hunt against Blake,” Miller said. “The people behind it were incredibly vindictive. Who in the hell gets charged for something so insignificant?”
Proctor called the error an oversight on his part, but added that the charge was “ludicrous and politically-motivated.” Proctor said he paid a $500 fine and the incident was expunged from his record.
Fairmont officials say that is why they were unaware of the indictment after they did a background check on the finalists. The Robesonian did a Goggle search and found a Citizen News article on the indictment.