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Council readies to recruit

The Dalles City Council tentatively selected Slavin Management Consultants to conduct the search for city manager candidates at Tuesday’s special meeting.

Gene Parker, city attorney, was given a green light to negotiate terms with the Georgia-based firm that emerged as the top choice out of three companies who answered the city’s bid for proposals.

Councilor Linda Miller favored Slavin because it guarantees its work for two years instead of one and has a “more extensive follow-up.” In addition the company has never been sued and carries no debt, so was viewed as being highly stable.

“I think they’ve got the best presentation,” agreed Councilor Russ Brown.

Also given consideration was JD Gray Company of Frisco, Texas, and The Prothman Company of Issaquah, Wash.

The request for proposals was issued after Nolan Young was fired from the city manager role he had held for more than 18 years at the Sept. 14 council meeting.

At that time, Mayor Steve Lawrence said Young served at the “pleasure of the council” and declined to provide further details about the reason for his termination.

Parker was asked at Tuesday’s special meeting to see if Slavin’s price of $22,173 for a nationwide search could be reduced if city staffers aided in the process.

Julie Krueger, interim city manager, said staff could perform many on-site tasks, such as arranging transportation when the top five semi-finalists or three finalists were given personal interviews.

The council also felt that the work done by Krueger, Parker and Izetta Grossman, administrative assistant, to compile a city profile and a position description for the manager’s role would also make Slavin’s job easier.

In the job description, the city manager is to oversee daily operations and monitor expenditures in all departments. He or she will also be required to communicate regularly with the public, resolve citizen complaints, work well with other governmental entities, have knowledge of the legislative process and develop long range plans to accomplish goals identified by the council.

Personal attributes sought by the council include the ability of the manager to perform strategic planning, be a facilitator and consensus builder, promote and tolerate a “change environment” and seek and explore new ideas, methods and procedures.

“I’m interested in communication, written and oral, that’s my number one with whoever it is,” said Lawrence at the Oct. 6 meeting.

The new city manager will also be required to deal creatively with stress, frustration, find ways to finish work that has been delayed and take risks in order to achieve goals and see projects through to completion.

Candidates will be required to have at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and five years of management experience. Postgraduate course work is also desirable.

The city has not yet decided upon the salary range for the new manager, according to Krueger.

The wage issue, as well as the results of Parker’s negotiations with Slavin, are expected to be discussed at the Oct. 12 council meeting.

The elected body convenes Monday at 5:30 p.m. at city hall, 313 Court Street.

Although the city charter says a new manager must be brought onboard within six months, Parker told the council that the process could probably be extended by appointing an interim manager for a specified period of time.

“What I don’t want is for us to be pressured to make a choice because of timings — it’s got to be right,” said Lawrence.

Brown said Slavin and the other recruiting firms had given a timeline of less than six months to have finalists chosen.

“You would hope that these people would present us with some fairly good choices,” he said.

Councilor Tim McGlothlin gained agreement from his peers Tuesday to have the city save costs for the search in any way that it could.

“I want in-house work as much as possible,” he said. “I would like to see us get the price down.”

Lawrence said the advantage of going with a search group instead of city officials trying to do their own recruiting was that objective specialists would be vetting candidates. And Slavin would perform extensive background checks to weed out people who were not qualified for the post.

“Personally, I want to get it as objective and unconnected to emotions as possible,” said Lawrence.

McGlothlin suggested that a seven-member subcommittee be formed to interview the semi-finalists and finalists. That idea was agreed upon and the makeup of the work group will be two councilors, a staffer and representatives from the port, county and business base.

Councilor Dan Spatz recommended that finalists be given a tour of the area by community members not seated on the committee. He said that was done in Hood River and comments made by one city manager candidate who “let his guard down” affected the selection outcome.

“You need to see who you are really dealing with,” he said.

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