The City of Hood River is moving forward in its search for a new permanent city manager with the hopes of having the new candidate selected by winter’s end.
During an Oct. 15 Hood River City Council meeting, council and Mayor Arthur Babitz examined the recruitment schedule proposed by Prothman and Associates: an executive recruitment firm from Issaquah, Wash., that has been awarded an $18,500 contract by the city to helm the search for a new city manager.
Former City Manager Bob Francis left the position July 8 after a series of disagreements between him, Babitz and some council members resulted in Francis tendering his resignation. Planning Director Cindy Walbridge filled the vacancy left by Francis until Don Otterman took over as interim city manager Aug. 20.
City Council will hold a special meeting on Monday at 5 p.m. to discuss and receive public input on the City Manager profile drafted by recruitment firm Prothman and Associates.
The regular scheduled City Council meeting will follow at 6 p.m. Council will approval the final draft of the profile during work session. The meetings will be in the City Council Chambers, 211 Second St., Hood River.
The process to find Francis’ permanent replacement will be an exhaustive one and is expected to take at least four months.
Greg Prothman of Prothman and Associates was present at the meeting to explain the process. He said his firm would send out “about 600 or 700 letters of invitation” to current city managers in western states and said Hood River should expect to receive “somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-50 applications,” which he described as a typical number for a city the size of Hood River. He cautioned against advertising and mailing letters east of the Rockies due to the added expense and his perception that “cultural differences” between the structuring of municipal law on the East Coast and the West Coast would make the Hood River position undesirable to potential East Coast candidates.
A profile of the ideal candidate, including job qualifications and desired personality attributes, will be crafted by the city to help in the process, while Prothman will prepare salary recommendations for the position based on the current market.
The recruitment schedule calls for the position to be advertised from Nov. 12 to Jan. 12 and applications to be screened shortly afterwards. Prothman said applications would be sorted into “yes, no, maybe” piles and then narrowed down to 10-15 potential candidates to be interviewed. Background checks and Google checks will be performed on these candidates’ histories, Prothman said, although he noted “there shouldn’t be too many surprises.”
A council work session to review semifinalist interviews was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 27, with final interviews to be conducted during the second or third week in February.
Babitz asked Prothman how often his firm was unable to find a suitable candidate at the conclusion of a search. Prothman estimated once in every 15 searches.
“If we don’t have the right candidate, we’ll pull back, re-source, and start again,” he explained.
Babitz also asked what opportunities there were for “the public to have access” to participating in the selection process.
Prothman said it was certainly possible as well as beneficial to seek public input to help aid in the search for the city manager candidate. He suggested holding a public meeting or selecting a panel of local community members, business owners, and organization heads to weigh in on candidates.
Babitz asked council members for their thoughts.
“Personally, I think we should have a public meeting,” said councilor Kate McBride. “If we choose people then it seems to be targeted to the people we might choose. So I think it should be more open than that.”
Councilor Mark Zanmiller agreed and advocated the process should be “as transparent as possible.”
Council reached consensus on holding public meetings to help in the city manager selection process, with the dates of the meetings to be scheduled at a future time.