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Headhunter chosen for city manager search

Newberg government — Executive firm that recruited former city manager Jim Bennett will conduct next process, City Council voted Monday

The city of Newberg will employ an executive search firm, commonly known as a “headhunter,” to carry out the search for a new city manager, the City Council decided Monday night.

The decision came from a recommendation by the subcommittee tasked with overseeing the search process, which begins with finalizing the position description and salary range and selecting who will carry out the search.Betz

Last week the subcommittee, consisting of councilors Stephen McKinney, Mike Corey and Scott Essin as voting members, heard from three parties about how their search process would be carried out: two executive search firms and the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments presented to the committee.

A COG search, running about $7,000, would differ from a headhunter search in a few key ways, Nancy Boyer of COG explained. The biggest difference is the extent to which the search will actively seek out candidates who are already working in other cities. Headhunters generally are more aggressive in locating candidates while COG conducts a more limited search, not necessarily going nationwide to look for interested applicants.

COG performed the last search that ended with hiring former City Manager Jacque Betz, a topic that came up prominently in the subcommittee’s discussion.

“I’m really sorry that we’re back to this particular point where we are, in such a short period of time,” Boyer said, acknowledging that some further steps could be included this time around to avoid a similar situation in the future.

The committee also asked Boyer whether there was “scuttlebutt we should be made aware of,” which she responded there indeed was. At the point when candidates are making decisions about whether to take the job, Boyer posited they would likely have questions about the investigation and assessment of the police chief and department.

“Police chiefs can be very dangerous for city managers, and so I think any city manager looking at this position would kind of want to know what they’re stepping into,” Boyer said. “I would have that question if it were me, I’d want to know.”

McKinney stated he and City Manager Pro Tem Steve Rhodes have discussed what information is releasable to future candidates, in preparation for those questions. There are the larger issues the public is aware of, but there are also “a host of other substantial issues of why Jacque Betz is no longer with the city of Newberg, and we’d be open to those franker discussions as long as we don’t violate the (release agreement),” McKinney said.

Betz also came up when Mayor Bob Andrews queried whether the committee would seek guidance from the Oregon City/County Management Association, and Rhodes reminded the group that Betz is still president of the OCCMA which could cloud advice on the search. Betz will continue in that role until January.

Two headhunter firms presented to the subcommittee, The Prothman Company, based out of Issaquah, Wash., and Bob Murray & Associates, with headquarters in Sacramento.

Following the presentations committee members immediately gravitated toward hiring Bob Murray & Associates. They liked the fact that Murray, founder of the firm, would conduct the search and that it would be one of only two searches he’d be undertaking simultaneously. Prothman representatives, on the other hand, stated the Newberg search would be one of 23 concurrent searches the firm is carrying out.

Committee members also highlighted the cost difference, noting that a Murray search would cost $17,500 plus a capped $7,500 fee for expenses, while a Prothman search would run $19,500 with less of a concrete limit on expenses.

Murray’s direct focus on acknowledging the problems that erupted over the summer was also cited in the committee’s decision.

“Candidates … are going to be looking at this job and the first thing they’re going to do is Google Newberg and they will see that there have been some issues,” Essin said. “One of the things that (Murray) said is that part of this process that he will be doing is to help heal some of the issues with the city.”

Murray discussed several tactics that could be used to restore the public’s faith in city government, focusing on involving the public in the search process. That could take the form of surveying the public on what is valued in a future city manager, all the way to forming a citizen advisory committee that could brief the council on what is important to the community during the search.

With that focus and the other traits the committee identified, “If you’re trying to do all that, I think the price we’re being charged is certainly reasonable,” Essin said as the recommendation was approved.

On Monday night councilors approved both the updated city manager position description as well as the hiring of Murray to conduct the search, which will not be the first he has completed for Newberg over the course of the roughly 175 city manager searches his company has carried out.

“I’m familiar with the community, having recruited your last successful city manager, Jim Bennett,” Murray said during his presentation.

All three search candidates estimated there would be between 30 and 50 applicants for the Newberg position. At the next council meeting the contract for Murray’s services will be considered, with the search expected to begin shortly after the holidays.