Commission begins process of finding new city manager

Published 7:49 pm Monday, June 24, 2019

The City of Danville is deciding how to proceed in its search for a new city manager, after Ron Scott recently announced he would be retiring by the end of the year. Last week, the mayor and commissioners met for a special meeting to review search firm options and determine timelines. Scott provided the commission with an overview of the executive search process by identifying a group of “well-experienced professional recruitment firms,” which he said the city can request proposals from.

“ICMA professional ethics do allow me to assist in these matters, with some ethical constraints,” Scott told the commission, referring to the International City/County Management Association. “This is what you’re paying me for, to be the administrative arm of the city commission.”

But Scott said he’ll stop short of commenting on qualifications of any individual candidate.

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He said the city has seven months to complete the process of hiring his replacement, but it “shouldn’t delay, in my view, as these firms regularly do this, they shouldn’t need an extended time to present a proposal.”

The firms Scott provided information on are in California, Illinois, New Mexico, Florida, Ohio and Georgia. Commissioner Kevin Caudill asked how the city will handle any local candidates, “who wouldn’t be on the radar of these firms.”

Scott said locally, hopefully people will be in the know about the position from reading the newspaper. “But they may not be,” he added.

He said in the RFP to the recruiting firms, the city can require the firm have at least one advertisement in a local paper, giving candidates knowledge of how to apply. And the information can be posted on the city’s website.

Mayor Mike Perros said after receiving proposals from firms and narrowing it down to finalists, “I would think we’d want to set up some kind of interview” with a representative with the firm.

The commission briefly discussed enacting a July 22 deadline for it to decide on which firm it will be using, but Scott said he felt that was “overly ambitious to make a decision by the 22nd.”

“Especially a decision of this magnitude,” Perros said, adding that the community wants “continuity” in the next city manager. .

“I’ve gotten spoiled for four years … with the talent you bring.” Perros was referring to his own last four years in office; Scott was hired in 2011 as interim and became the permanent city manager in 2012.

Perros said choosing the right firm may be the easier choice. “The next choice, after that, will be the hard one,” he said, referring to candidates.

Commissioner Rick Serres said he would be the one to “throw the monkey’s wrench” into the plan with his question. He said other agencies have made some good hires on their own without the help of recruiting firms, and cited Planning & Zoning and Parks & Recreation as examples.

“Why is this the way to go instead of just advertising for those positions” as other agencies did, Serres asked.

Scott said, “It’s a position that has a greater responsibility, in terms of numbers of employees, more specialized knowledge of a variety of things … Why wouldn’t you try to seek the best qualified person with a firm that’s experienced?”

City Attorney Stephen Dexter said the position of city manager is the one hire the city commission is responsible for. “You have essentially zero say” in all of the other hires, he said, “all of which are under the purview of the city manager. It would be somewhat odd for city staff to be responsible for hiring their future boss …:”

He also said the entire process should only be handled through the chosen recruiting firm.

“Furthermore, to streamline a professional process that’s truly an independent, outside vendor … to follow up with potential local interests, it’s important once the process is decided and determined … that the only conversations locally should be a referral through the firm,” Dexter said.

“So, all applications will go through the firm, and they will vet those and send those to us,” Commissioner Denise Terry clarified.

“What about the Kentucky League of Cities?” Serres asked. He wanted to know if KLC provides a service that could aid the city in its search.

Scott said no. He said some state leagues, and gave Michigan as an example, do provide such services. “But Kentucky League of Cities does not. They don’t have an established practice, even if you do you’re limiting the number of qualifications and candidates to a specific area, might not be wise.”

Dexter said KLC heavily favors the mayor/council form of government and not the city manager form, as Danville is. “That’s just factual … not opinion.”

Mayor Perros asked commissioners to block out July 24 as “city Skype day,” in hopes of planning interviews with the top firms the city has chosen to consider. The commission debated over whether allowing any recruiters to meet with them in person, while others were on different coasts.

“It needs to be one way or the other. Skype is a good, initial meeting. It’s more fair to do it that way, and probably easier, schedule-wise …” Commissioner Terry said.

The commission decided interviews with firms would all be held via video conference even if one is able to send a recruiter, in order to provide a level playing field.

Dexter cautioned the commission on trying to plan too much out in advance.

“While you want to have a planned course of action, you have to maintain flexibility and some sort of agility. There may be four great proposals, may be two. Let’s don’t set a process in stone and simply follow it … Let’s do it as it unfolds,” he said.