INDEPENDENCE — The Independence City Council on May 22 chose the firm Waldron to lead the search for a new city manager.
City Manager David Clyne said he is retiring but does not yet have a set date.
“(I) don’t have a final date but (it) appears to be December 2018,” Clyne said.
Council had a 6 p.m. work session to hear presentations from three executive search firms and voted to approve Waldron during the regular council meeting.
The cost is $26,000 plus expenses that may include advertising, final candidate travel, consultant travel and background checks.
The executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, Sean O’Day, helped facilitate the process.
He met previously with the council about the hiring process and recommended the city use a recruitment firm rather than its own human resources department or COG.
“Frankly Independence, even though it is a smaller community, is punching well outside its weight class,” O’Day said.
He said Independence is operating at a level of sophistication and achievement as a larger city.
Recruitment firms offer a guarantee, O’Day said, and most will offer a warranty.
In selecting a search firm, O’Day cautioned councilors to choose someone who would facilitate the recruitment process rather than drive the process.
Heather Gantz is the branch director for Waldron’s Portland office. She was the final presenter after representatives from the Portland-based executive search firm Prothman and Florida-based Baenzinger & Associates, who participated via Skype.
In her presentation, Gantz said Waldron has been doing public sector recruitment for as long as she’s been there, more than a decade. The company also offers coaching, consulting and career transition services.
“One of the really important components for us is getting to know you, that’s our backgrounding process,” Gantz said. “We would sit down and engage you in conversations, learn more about the city (and) what you’re looking for in a city manager.”
The city’s long-term and short-term priorities and initiatives will be used in the recruiting tools, she said.
Gantz would like to engage staff in conversation and would like council’s input on “extending the conversation outside the walls of city hall,” she said.
There are different ways to facilitate those conversations, such as small group discussions, Gantz said.
She said the city of Corvallis engaged Oregon State University students.
“We could use Western Oregon University to engage some youth in the community,” Gantz said.
Waldron also has distributed surveys to the broader community in both English and Spanish, she said.
“It depends on how much public input you are looking for in the community,” Gantz said. “I know there is a goal to increase that here.”
From the feedback they receive during those processes, the firm looks for consistency and common themes to create the position profile, she said.
Gantz said Waldron will reach out to “people that would potentially be interested” as well as people they have worked with in the past who may know others who would be interested.
“I love to work with up-and-comers,” Gantz said.
One of the things that sets Waldron apart from their competitors is that Gantz does not have a public sector background, she said. She has never been a city manager or served on a city council.
She has been recruiting for 20 years, she said.
“One of the really important components for us is getting to know you.”
“We look at people that don’t necessarily have a city manager track to their employment record,” Gantz said. “I find that extremely valuable if the city and the elected body is interested in looking at those profiles.”
Gantz said she will give the council weekly reports on who is applying, their status in the process and eventually will do a formal candidate presentation.
“At that point in time it’s your decision,” Gantz said. “You’ll determine who you are interested in continuing the process and bringing to the city for approval.”
Gantz said she would like to begin the process in July and have a contract signed in October.
Most working city managers have a 30-day notice clause in their contract, she said. That would allow about 45 days to have someone start in December before Clyne retires, she said.
O’Day asked at what point Gantz does a deep background check on the candidates.
“We do information referencing the whole time,” she said. “Once the candidates have been selected, that is when we would do the formal referencing and formal background check.”
Mayor John McArdle asked Gantz how she intended to work with council at the beginning of the process.
She said she prefers one-on-one conversations, which typically last an hour, with councilors to learn their interests and their vision for the city.
Marilyn Morton asked Gantz to elaborate on how she looks outside the box for candidates.
Gantz said she considers placing Ann Ober in Milwaukie an example of a success story.
“She was a director at the county and had a large amount of responsibility,” Gantz said. “She didn’t follow a traditional track. She didn’t have an assistant city manager title, but she had all of the qualifications.”
Gantz said Ober learned about the position through a couple of people who brought it to her attention.
Councilor Odilon Campos-Santos asked Gantz how she would ensure a diverse pool of candidates.
“That’s difficult to always ensure, I think that we do a wide variety of outreach helps,” Gantz said. “Our willingness to look at nontraditional candidates helps in that regard. Those (on the) traditional paths, as we all know, are typically white males.”
Diversity can mean different things to different people, she said.
It depends on what that means to the councilors, she added.
“There is the potential in November for half of this council to turn over,” said Councilor Kathy Martin-Willis. “How would you choose to accommodate the potential roll over in the midst of the search?”
Gantz said that makes it difficult for a recruitment.
“What I would want to understand from David (Clyne) and the group is what is the potential, what realistically does that look like,” Gantz said.
Knowing that would allow honest conversations with the candidates, she said.
During regular session, Martin-Willis said she liked that Gantz was willing to “think outside the box.”
“We’re kind of known for that here,” Martin-Willis said.
“I was looking at Waldron and it seems like they were going to be very engaged with us,” said Councilor Tom Takacs. “Prothman didn’t sound like they were going to spend a lot of time here with us.”
Morton said she liked that Waldron had a pattern of looking for solutions as well as the clarity of what councilors were going to get and how often they would get it.
All the firms were “fine and capable,” said Mayor John McArdle.
McArdle also appreciate that Waldron would look for less traditional candidates. He mentioned that Greg Ellis, former city manager, spent time as a logger.
Clyne said he knew Gantz from a recruitment that he was part of before.
He was a finalist in a 2015 Corvallis search for a city manager which Waldron conducted.