By Mike Phillips
The most important item on yesterday’s city commission agenda was billed as a “discussion” about the city’s process for finding a city manager. Given the amount of running around in circles that followed, it was more like a contest to see which commissioner could sow the most confusion — particularly commissioners David Sturges and Darron Ayscue (who changed or modified their ideas frequently enough to make onlookers’ heads spin).
Citizens who made comments were far more concise. Hire a professional search firm, they said, and tell the firm what you are looking for. Five such search firms have made proposals to the city.
Then came the first round of confusion, over who should determine what the city is looking for in a new manager. At first some commissioners said they thought the citizen advisory committee that will have its first meeting April 17 should determine what the city is looking for. They eventually seemed to drop that idea, but they didn’t formally accept the obligation themselves, either.
After more circling around on the question of hiring a professional search firm, they settled on seeking an “a la carte” arrangement with Strategic Government Resources (SGR). At first, there were suggestions that the firm would just be used to “vet” candidates, though the nature of “vetting” wasn’t clearly spelled out.
Then, after some more circling around, the word “recruit” emerged. After all, professional search firms do know where to look, and citizen committees don’t.
Three other important services that SGR offers weren’t discussed, although Commissioner James Antun pointed out that they would cost only $2,500 more:
— Leading the search process.
— Handling all logistics associated with scheduling interviews.
— Offering a one-year guarantee on hires they have recommended.
Firms like SGR aren’t headhunters, as some people call them. They are matchmakers. They get to know the city and its leaders and scour the applications and their more general knowledge of the municipal management landscape and look for good matches.
One question was where the citizen committee fits in. The general response was that the search firm would submit a list to the citizen committee. A list of every candidate who survived the “vetting”? Or a list that has been edited by the search firm’s matchmaking skills? That’s not clear.
And then came a question (one of many) from Commissioner Chip Ross that almost stumped the other commissioners: Who is in charge of this process? Finally, Mayor Bradley Bean said, “The chair of the citizen committee.”
After receiving the list, he said, the committee will narrow it down to a manageable number and bring finalists in for interviews with the committee and the commission.
After that, he assured all present, the commission will do its job and decide.