The searches are on.
Hood River City Council had one item on its agenda Monday: deciding a process to recruit candidates for the post of city manager.
Former manager Bob Francis resigned last month, leaving the vacancy open first for an interim manager to serve three to six months while the city goes through the potentially lengthy process of a permanent hire.
The city manager search is a two-stage one: An interim will be hired in about a month, and then the city will embark on the recruitment and search process.
“We’re not looking at low bid on this,” Mayor Arthur Babitz said. “We want to make sure the references are checked scrupulously. It is easy to take someone’s word or not go deeply enough.”
City Attorney Dan Krause invoked what he called “The Banks Disaster,” referring to the Washington County city that hired a man named Kyle Awesome as its manager, only to learn he had virtually none of the qualifications he had claimed and were insufficiently vetted in the process by League of Oregon Cities.
In a special meeting a week ago, the council appointed Planning Director Cindy Walbridge as acting city manager.
Walbridge was asked Monday how things are going.
“It’s going well. I am hanging in there really well,” she said, adding that she looks forward to getting a qualified interim in place, but asked council to take its time to find the best qualified interim.
“We are in a good position to recruit,” Babitz said, “We are fiscally solvent and we have a strong, healthy economy, and this is a pretty appealing place. I think we’ll have a lot of luck in attracting highly qualified people.”
The search for a permanent manager will take four to six months. Babitz said the target is Jan. 1, 2014, to have the new manager on board.
Babitz also told council Monday that he will not seek reelection, and wanted prospective managers to be aware of that.
“I need to have a peripheral role in the search,” he said. “I have experience in choosing executives but I will not be working with this person very long. Staff and council will be working with them and I think it’s important they are the ones actively involved in the search.”
The interim decision could happen as soon as the next city council meeting, on Aug. 12, or sooner if the council’s interim manager search committee reaches a recommendation earlier; in that case, a special meeting would be called. Councilor Kate McBride is heading the interim search.
On Monday, council members Mark Zanmiller, Carrie Nelson and McBride volunteered to be the committee to review recruitment proposals and report back to full council Aug. 12. Zanmiller will chair the committee.
In her research on finding an interim, McBride had made contact with four potential recruiters, and the recruitment committee will look at those and possibly others.
On Monday the committee was asked to return Aug. 12 with a recommendation on whom to hire to do the recruitment.
Once a recruiter is chosen, the process will include public input, and a review of the city manager job description, which had not been looked at since Francis was hired nearly 10 years ago.
“Once you choose the (recruitment) company you work with, that defines the remaining process,” Babitz said. “They have a process they use, a process they know works well, and you work that process.”
What it is the community wants in its city manager “is part of the process the search firm leads you through,” Babitz said. “Each city is different, and there are discussions to help you refine that.”