Monday evening was all about filling vacancies — both current and forecasted — for the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly.
In interviews of 10-minutes or fewer, Assembly members screened each of the applicants looking to fill the open District 1 Assembly seat left vacant after Mayor Mary Becker stepped up to fill the role left vacant by the unexpected death of Greg Fisk. One of the key questions around which the rapid-fire interview revolved regarded the hiring of a new city manager. Kim Keifer’s final day as city manager will be April 30.
“The hiring of a new city manager looms, and I have a feeling that the first thing you’re going to have to do is look through a stack of résumés on your desk,” Assembly member Jesse Kiehl frequently told applicants before asking them what they would look for in a new city manager.
Applicant Al Clough kicked off the series of four interviews — Cheryl Jebe, one of the five applicants, withdrew her application Monday morning. Clough was the only candidate not to be asked Kiehl’s manager question, likely because it seemed to stem from his interview.
“I think the biggest thing for the Assembly right now is filling (Kim Kiefer’s) chair,” Clough said when asked about “current issues” facing the Assembly. “Unfortunately, I was there when we filled it with the wrong person.”
Clough, a former Assembly member, said that during his term in the mid ‘90s, the Assembly “went through three mayors and three city managers.”
Clough wasn’t the only person to point out the importance of filling city manager’s chair. Applicant Arnold Liebelt also touched on the importance of filling the city’s top spot — and the mayor seat — after Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski asked him if he was familiar with the current problems before the Assembly.
“Before you start addressing some of the complex issues, you need a foundation,” Liebelt said. “It’s a process issue to me, without having that leadership at the table, things get more divisive; things get more fragmented.”
The other candidates gave fairly across-the-board answers. Not surprisingly, “leadership” and “experience” were key in each applicants’ answer.
“We need somebody, not just on paper, whose references show that they know how to have good working relationships with staff during times of change and a good relationship with the Assembly,” applicant Barbara Sheinberg said.
Applicant Doug Mertz also talked about the importance of selecting an experienced applicant. “We can’t make this a learn-as-you go type of job,” he said. He also said transparency was an important feature he’d look for in a new manager. Assembly member Jerry Nankervis asked each applicant whether they would seek election this fall when their temporary term expires, should they win it.
Only Shienberg and Liebelt expressed interest in running for a seat on the Assembly come October. Neither applicant, however, gave a hard yes.
The Assembly will announce who will fill the vacant seat today at 9 a.m. in the Assembly Chambers.