07/02/04 — City to hire executive search firm to find manager

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City to hire executive search firm to find manager

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 2, 2004 1:57 PM

The Goldsboro City Council has decided to hire an executive search firm to help find a new city manager.

The council will not vote to hire a search firm until its meeting Tuesday, but members agreed Thursday that it would be the best way to proceed.

Gene Dillman and Hartwell Wright, two representatives from the League of Municipalities in Raleigh, guided the council through possible search scenarios. They spoke during a two-hour work session held to determine how to replace City Manager Richard Slozak who announced last month that he would retire at the end of December.

Dillman said there were three ways to conduct the selection process. One was for the city to do all of it without any outside help.

"You would select someone inside to be the contact person, receiving and processing the applications," Dillman said.

The second choice was a slight variation on the first.

"You would do it yourself, but you would hire someone from the outside to be the contact person," he explained. "That way you aren't putting an extra burden on one of your employees or putting them in position of knowledge of their future boss."

The third choice was to hire someone to do a search.

Dillman emphasized that hiring a city manager was the most important decision the board would make, and that it should not rush.

"The city manager is the face of what the city is about," he said. "Because it's so important to fit what the organization is all about to the candidate, it will take time."

But while encouraging the board to proceed in a deliberate manner, he also cautioned the councilmen about dragging the process out.

Dillman said that several other mid-sized cities, including Wilson, were looking for new city managers. He also said that the applicant pool for city managers was not as big as many other jobs because city management was a unique position.

"So there are competing cities in a thin market," he said. "It's not a race, take your time, but don't dally and don't spend dead time along the way."

Councilman Jimmy Bryan said that the council was interested in receiving applicants from other states, as well as from North Carolina.

"That will increase the number of applicants, won't it?" he asked.

Dillman replied that it would, but that the city needed to be aware that other states had different laws regarding municipal government.

"The way business is done here is different than in other states," he said. "In some states the managers have a lot less responsibility."

If Goldsboro looked at someone out of state, he said, then it should be aware of the differences.

"You can have some great candidates, but they could have a longer learning curve."

Dillman said they could help the city start the process, but someone outside the league would need to conduct the recruitment selection because their organization couldn't show favoritism to one city. The League of Municipalities is a nonprofit group that lobbies for cities and towns in North Carolina.

"I think the board understands the task before it, and I think we're looking forward to getting the best person for the job," Mayor Al King said. "Nobody knows who that will be at this point, and that's the way it should be."