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Roadmap to recruit next city manager a six-step process

Search should close at end of February, interviews with council and other interested groups will follow

As recruitment approaches for Newberg’s next top administrator, parameters of the search process have been narrowed and pending City Council approval later this month the city will have a fairly detailed procedure to follow in the coming months.

Last month the recruitment subcommittee — made up of councilors Stephen McKinney, Mike Corey and Scott Essin and non-voting members council president Denise Bacon and Mayor Bob Andrews — had an initial discussion of how to carry out the search process. During that meeting City Manager Pro Tem Steve Rhodes expressed concern that the procedure used in previous Newberg manager searches was overly detailed, needlessly limiting the city’s options in search methodology.

In response City Attorney Truman Stone and other staff looked at a number of other cities and their recruitment processes, including Oregon City, Florence and Hermiston.

The procedures ranged from a general two-paragraph description to 20 pages of detailed procedural outline.

“We settled on something in the middle,” Stone said.

Modeled primarily after the recent recruitment process that the city of Salem used, the recommended Newberg process was designed to include enough detail without being specific to the point of trapping the city with limited choices in how to select a new executive.

The selection process will be carried out in six stages, two of which have already completed: the search firm, Bob Murray & Associates, was hired in December, and the position description for city manager was revised and updated in November. Overall the process began in late August when the subcommittee first convened three days after former city manager Jacque Betz resigned amidst a month-long controversy.

Now the recruitment phase begins. A brochure introducing Newberg to potential candidates is being developed by the human resources department. It contains background information about the city as well as some of its recent challenges and the upcoming issues candidates should be familiar with, based on subcommittee discussions during the fall.

The brochure also details an “ideal candidate,” listing various managerial qualities such as strong leadership and emphasizing accountability within city departments.

“An impeccably honest individual with a strong sense of personal and professional integrity is sought,” the brochure states, adding that the candidate should be “an effective and open communicator who is capable of earning the respect of the community, city staff and the city council.”

During the recruitment stage the search itself will be conducted by Murray and will employ direct marketing and networking techniques as well as “traditional employment platforms.”

Once candidates are identified Murray will perform an initial screening based on evaluating candidates’ qualifications and preliminary screening interviews that involve questions developed by the subcommittee. It’s not set in stone, but the brochure indicates a search close date of Feb. 26.

Then the search firm will work with city staff and the council to review the applications and compile a list of up to seven candidates who will then be interviewed by the council in executive session closed to the public.

From that pool the council will narrow it down to up to three candidates who will be asked for an in-person interview in front of councilors, with travel expenses paid by the city.

During that final interview process there may be an interview with other advisory bodies made up of city employee representatives, community members and local businesspeople.

Once a final candidate is chosen the recruitment subcommittee could also choose to visit candidates’ communities to learn about their work style or reputation.

Then comes the offer of employment once the final candidate is chosen. More executive sessions will be convened as the council works with Murray to produce an employment contract that further hones the salary and benefit specifics.

Finally the council will hold an open session to vote on the final candidate and to approve the employment contract.

In addition to the chronological process of recruitment the procedure includes a few other details, such as that Newberg citizens will have an opportunity to comment on the search process and the standards that will be used to review candidates. While there is no town hall-style meeting proposed that would bring candidates in front of citizens in an open session before a finalist is selected, the community member advisory group described in the interview process is a way for additional representatives of the community (besides councilors) to offer input on candidates.

In previous meetings the subcommittee mentioned that community advisory group could be something like a seven-member group selected and appointed by councilors.

Discussing the search procedure Monday afternoon, most of the subcommittee’s changes were small wording revisions.

However, Bacon questioned whether the procedure needed to specify that the city could start the process over again if there were no candidates chosen in this search.

Stone brought up language from the last city manager search process, a clarification that nothing in the procedure or any other related document would obligate the city to select any candidate. The group elected to add that language into the procedure for the upcoming search as well.

The subcommittee will next meet when Murray has all of the recruitment materials together, likely sometime in March after the search has closed.

The City Council will consider the search procedure Jan. 19.