Councilor wants business leaders to weigh in on city manager applicants

The short-handed Cornelius City Council took some preliminary steps toward hiring a new city manager this week, setting a tentative timeline that allows lots of flexibility.

During a work session Monday, the three council members got some feedback from a handful of community members and a representative from the League of Oregon Cities.

Former Mayor Ralph Brown said the city's goal of having a new manager in place by February might be unrealistic, particularly if the person hired comes from another city, which will want some transition time of its own.

'The last two city managers we hired were unemployed at the time,' said Brown, who was mayor during one of the searches. 'I don't think you'll have anyone until March at the earliest.'

Brown and another resident, Dave Schamp, suggested the city consider hiring an interim manager, so that the acting manager, Paul Rubenstein, can return to his duties as police chief.

Both men said that Rubenstein is doing a good job, but wondered about the impact to the police department.

Rubenstein, however, said he has been able to delegate most of his work and his officers are responding well. He noted that by having him fill in, the city saves the cost of an interim manager. That savings, he said, was important given that the former city manager, Dave Waffle, got a $110,000 severance package after he was fired by the previous council, which included three members who have since been recalled.

'We're still technically in the hole,' he said. 'Every month I'm in the position, you save money. And, it's getting easier. Certainly, now, there's less stress. As long as you're happy with me, I'm happy to do this.'

That seemed to satisfy the three-member council, which is slated to fill the remaining two posts next month.

Applications rolling in

In the meantime, Jennie Messmer, of the League of Oregon Cities, gave the council and staff members an update on the job search. So far, she said, she's received seven official applications but has also fielded calls from others who expressed an interest in the job. She expects the number to jump considerably as the Dec. 2 deadline approaches.

Once all the applications are in, Messmer will screen them to see which ones match the qualifications that have been posted. She then will forward to the council a dozen or so that best fit the job description. Those applications will be reviewed in an executive session to narrow the list further. Then, background checks and reference checks will be made on the applicants that most interest the council with the goal of winnowing the number down to a half-dozen or so.

At that point the names of the finalists will be made public and they will be invited in for interviews with a series of panels representing city employees, the city council, administrators from other cities and at least one panel of community members. Councilor Steve Heinrich suggested another panel made up of business and property owners, to address specific questions about the business climate and development options.

The councilors also indicted support for hosting an open house with all the finalists present, to ensure that everyone in the community has a chance to participate in the process.

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