City Council Mulls Process to Pick New City Manager

~ by Bob Volpe

Last Tuesday city council met in a special session to discuss the
process of how to select the next city manager.

With David Buttery announcing his resignation last month, city council
is now faced with searching for his replacement.
This meeting was about how to get to the point where the final
applicant will be chosen. The meeting was not; as some on social media
portrayed it, an end run to immediately pick a new city manager
without the public’s input or knowledge.

Mayor Levy started the meeting stating, “I think everyone in this room
will agree with my next statement. We all want the best new city
manager we can possibly find. I think for the council, now that we
passed the 2018 budget, this could be the biggest issue in front of us
this year, although ya never know what might come up. The point is, it
is very, very important. The word transparency is, I think, overused
but we will do everything we possibly can in public session and to
make it accessible to everybody.”

Levy then went on to describe the method he prefers for the process to
proceed. He suggested a team of a couple council members, a couple
city employees, and a couple community members get together to narrow
down the applicants, then take that number of applicants to city
council. He emphasized that in the end of the process, the six council
members and mayor will make the final decision on who gets hired.
Levy’s reasoning behind this method was that it would minimize the
need for executive sessions which would exclude the public. He said,
“We need public meetings.”

Mayor Pro Tem, Carrol Harvey pointed out that some members of council
preferred to have only council on the search committee. She said she
thought either approach would work, but suggested the city take the
route of least possible liability to an accusation of discrimination
or bias.

City attorney Erin Smith answered Harvey stating that there would be
minimal difference with either method as far as liability was
concerns.Councilman Val Carr spoke to the issue contending the city charter
clearly states that council members solely can appoint the city
manager. He touted the qualifications of those on council to make such
a decision.

Carr is concerned that a search committee eliminates the council right
up front. He then went on to describe a method he and Councilman John
Schafer came up with.Carr sees no problem with prolonging the search past the next election
in April to include the new council and mayor, should the makeup of
the legislature change. Mayor Levy disputed Carr’s idea that their method would reduce the
number of executive session. He noted that applications cannot be
discussed in public session.

Harvey chimed in explaining to Carr that the reasoning behind having a
search committee was to have no more than two council members thinning
down the applicants, because anytime more than two council members
meet it must be a public meeting. This is the method the city has used
in the past to reduce the number of executive sessions. She said,
“Ultimately we (council) will make the decision. I just think for
expediency and to avoid having to go to executive session every time
we turn around the committee method makes sense.”
Councilman Ken Matthews agreed with Levy’s idea.

The discussion then turned to the length of the search. Concerns were
aired that too long a search would find a qualified applicant couldn’t
wait and would up taking another offer before our search was even
finished.

Concerns were also kicked around as to whether the process should drag
on into the beginning of the new council/mayor after the election.
Harvey suggested a human resource specialist be brought in to tutor
the council on the selection process.

City clerk Suzanne Leclercq handed a number of documents to council
that describes salaries of city managers around the state and other
pertinent information regarding the selection of a city manager.
Councilman Schafer suggested that each member of council take one of
those documents and come report to council at the next regular
meeting, when the process will be finalized.