City manager search begins anew

Posted: Sunday, March 01, 2009

Juneau's search for a new city manager has been underway since November and was supposed to culminate with a selection Monday. It won't.

In a diplomatically worded press release, the city announced Friday that the search will begin anew.

"After thorough evaluation, the Assembly determined that it would be in the city's best interests if it were to undertake a second recruitment effort," it states.

Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker, chair of the committee revising the search strategy, said each of the three finalist candidates had qualities the Assembly wanted, but no one candidate had it all.

"If we took things we liked of each one, put them together in one candidate, we'd have an ideal candidate," Wanamaker said.

He also said it was an Assembly decision to restart the search, rather than the candidates getting cold feet.

The search, which began three months ago after Rod Swope announced he'd be leaving the post on April 30 to avoid burnout, kicked off with online job postings, advertising and direct mailings to administrators working in similar-sized cities. City Human Resources Director Mila Cosgrove estimated that portion cost between $3,500 and $5,000. She estimated another $6,500 was spent on travel, per diems, lodging and similar expenses associated with flying the three finalists to town for hours of live interviews and role-playing exercises conducted last week.

Cosgrove said it's not unusual for the process of recruiting executives to take several months. She said it's always prudent to seek the best person for the job, rather than the most convenient.

"Personally, I applaud the Assembly for taking the extra time to go out and really find the person that's in Juneau's best long-term interest," Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove said Swope's hiring in 2003 was the result of a 10-month proces that also included a second round of searching. The Assembly widely praises Swope's tenure and generally holds him in high esteem.

Wanamaker's committee met Saturday to discuss tweaks to the search process. The committee directed Cosgrove to broaden some of the parameters, such as seeking executive level experience rather than specifically experience in public administration.

Wanamaker said executives of large nonprofits or Native corporations are of particular interest and may have been dissuaded from applying in the first round by language emphasizing a background in municipal administration. Assemblyman Bob Doll said retired military officers may also be a good fit for the position.

In addition to restarting the formal recruitment campaign, Cosgrove encouraged the Assembly to engage in an informal word of mouth and networking effort to encourage more candidates to apply.

The committee plans to meet again Wednesday and have its recommendations ready for the full Assembly's consideration by March 10.

The city manager oversees about 700 employees and an annual core city budget of about $85 million. The city manager answers to the elected officials of the Juneau Assembly.

The original job postings advertised a negotiable salary beginning at $110,000. Swope earns $133,420. Wanamaker's committee intends to raise the starting pay to $120,000.

The first search was structured to bring the new city manager in almost three weeks before Swope's last day for transition purposes, which isn't possible anymore. Deputy City Manager Kim Kiefer will handle Swope's responsibilities in the interim. She did not apply for the job with the first round of candidates.

Kiefer has worked for the city for more than a decade, previously serving as City Parks and Recreation director before taking on her current position in early 2006.

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