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Council will soon interview city manager candidates

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 by Jack Craver

In the next month, City Council will likely interview six to eight finalists to be the next city manager during two meetings that will be closed to the public.

In a Tuesday discussion with Steve Newton of Russell Reynolds Associates, the consulting firm tasked with finding finalists for the job, Council members expressed support for splitting up the interviews between two days.

“Doing six in a one-day session is going to be tedious,” said Council Member Ora Houston.

No dates have been finalized for the interviews, but Interim City Manager Elaine Hart agreed to look into whether Council could make room for two sessions on Oct. 26, Oct. 31 or Nov. 2. A number of Council members said they would support canceling their scheduled meeting on Nov. 2 to make time for the interviews.

Council members also decided that they would conduct the interviews together, as one group, rather than subjecting the candidates to multiple interviews with smaller groups.

“I think there’s real value in having Council together” for the interview, said Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo. “We’re often together when we’re interacting with the city manager.”

Unlike past interviews for city manager, these meetings will not be open to the public and the names of the candidates will not be disclosed. Council agreed to that condition in response to concerns expressed by the consultant leading the candidate search that revealing the names of the finalists might scare off some qualified candidates who don’t want their current employer to know they’re looking for a new job.

Newton said that the firm has spent the last month “reaching out to all corners of the United States” to put together a “very diverse slate of candidates.”

The number of applicants who have responded to the job posting on the city’s website has “exceeded expectations in terms of the (number of) profiles submitted, but underwhelmed us in terms of the quality of the profiles,” he said.

Rather, said Newton, the candidates showing the most promise are those that the headhunters approached directly about the position.

After the first round of interviews, Council will narrow the field to three finalists and then make a final decision.

It has been a year since former City Manager Marc Ott vacated the position to take a job leading the International City/County Management Association in Washington, D.C.

Photo by John Flynn.

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