07/09/04 — Manager search firms make pitch

View Archive

Manager search firms make pitch

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 9, 2004 1:58 PM

Finding a new city manager may not be as hard for the Goldsboro City Council as deciding which firm to hire to conduct the search.

The council interviewed consultants from two firms Thursday and were impressed with both companies.

"Both of them are just as good as can be, cost about the same and have the same amount of experience," said Councilman Jimmy Bryan. "It will be hard to decide."

City Manager Richard Slozak will retire Dec. 30, after working for the city for 33 years.

Jim Mercer from the Atlanta-based Mercer Group and Roger Scott from Springsted Inc. in Virginia Beach made presentations on their firms. They both estimated that the search could be completed within three to four months.

The cost for the search would be about $23,000.

Both firms have offices throughout the country and would follow a similar search process.

The first step would be to interview council members to find out what they wanted in a manager, and the second step would be to find out the issues facing the city.

Interviews with department heads, other local organizations and some city staff members would also be conducted.

After determining the desired traits of a city manager for Goldsboro, the firms would advertise the position in a number of publications.

In addition, each firm would actively recruit potential candidates.

"Some people might not be looking for a job, but they could be a perfect fit for Goldsboro," explained Mercer.

Mercer said that usually candidates from within the region, such as North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia, were better fits for the job.

"But there may be those candidates living out west somewhere that are originally from this area and want to move back," he said.

Scott and Mercer expect there will be around 150 applicants for the position, though many of them would probably not be qualified.

"Goldsboro has tremendous stability, and it's just the right size," Mercer said. "It's big enough that there is stuff going on, not too big to be impersonal."

The firms would winnow the field of applicants down to about 10, and go over that list with the council. The list would be cut again to about five candidates.

The council would then interview each of the remaining candidates.

Before the interview process, both firms would conduct extensive background checks on the candidates. Background checks include verifying education credentials, doing criminal history searches, checking credit and verifying driver's licenses.

Though the consultants won't participate in the interview process, they each offered to observe and give feedback to the council after the interviews.

Mercer's company would also prepare sample questions for the council members and provide them with evaluation forms.

Each company would also assist the city with salary negotiations.

"We charge a flat fee for the work, so we have no vested interest in what you pay," Mercer said.

Both companies have conducted compensation studies, so they said they would be able to recommend a competitive salary figure for the manager position. Slozak is paid $123,000.

Scott has worked with the city before, conducting its employee salary surveys. Mercer conducted the search for president of the Economic Development Commission several years ago.

If for any reason the hired candidate leaves within a year, Scott's company would conduct another search for free.

Mercer said his company would conduct a search, charging expenses only, if the hired candidate leaves within two years.

Each firm pledges not to recruit the candidate away from the city for another job within two years after placement.

Mercer has recruited city managers in Wilmington and Charlotte, while Scott has recruited for Atlantic Beach and Fayetteville.

"I would very much like to work for the city and will do a first-class job," Scott said.

Mayor Al King said that it was extremely important to get just the right person for the job of city manager.

"We have a history here with the city manager that's unparalleled in North Carolina," King said. "We've only had two managers in the past 25 years, and we want to get the best person out there."

The council will receive written proposals from the two firms within the next week. A proposal from another firm, based in Charlotte, is also expected within the next week.

The board expects to make a decision on which firm to hire, at its July 19 council meeting.