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City manager search to resume Aug. 1

Ashland City Council approved a plan Tuesday for recruiting the next city manager. By 4-2 vote of the council, city staff will engage a professional recruiting firm to direct the search.

The plan resumes recruitment activities after the City Council paused search efforts May 13 to look into why two recruiting firms chose not to proceed with their city contracts. Councilor Shaun Moran cast the single nay vote on the pause.

“Recruitment firms — as challenging a time as we’ve had so far — still may add some value precisely because of some of the recent events that may make securing candidates more challenging,” City Manager pro tem Adam Hanks said at the July 6 council meeting.

Working with a recruitment firm or involving the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, as proposed by Mayor Julie Akins, does not eliminate Human Resource Director Tina Gray’s role in the process, Hanks said. Gray will coordinate between administrators and policymakers and provide oversight during the process, but will not select candidates, he said.

“[The HR director] does not have any role … choosing their own boss,” Hanks said.

With more than 20 years of HR experience, Gray “can and will” navigate the recruitment process, Hanks said.

Akins said she proposed working with RVCOG because the City Council faced difficulty deciding on minimum educational and prior experience qualifications in the city manager job description, and the organization could provide economical, local assistance in a timely manner. Whomever is chosen to serve as interim city manager may also help identify a long-term candidate, she said.

RVCOG has previously offered recruiting services for smaller jurisdictions lacking in-house HR departments and in cases when an “impartial third party” is needed, said Ann Marie Alfrey, executive director at RVCOG. The organization recently completed a city manager search for Talent.

“As you work through the hiring process, whether you decide to go with RVCOG or you stick with your internal HR director and department, the process will be largely the same,” Alfrey said. “We’re going to be advertising the recruitment in the same places and therefore the assumption would be that we’re getting the same applicants applying for the job.”

Cost and time would depend on the quantity of interview rounds City Council decides upon, number of applications received that meet qualifications and how quickly a subcommittee or the full council could schedule meetings for public interviews, Alfrey said. Previous searches have ranged from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on complexity, she said.

RVCOG leverages a regional network of contacts for recruitment, though perhaps not on a scale equitable to that of a professional recruiting firm, she said.

“With as popular as the internet is these days and the general access everyone has to job postings, a lot of people who are in the market are seeing the advertising, and word of mouth is very helpful,” Alfrey said.

Councilor Paula Hyatt said the decision boiled down to whether the council wanted an entity reaching out and actively encouraging candidates to apply, or if advertising the post is sufficient. Selecting a firm adds one more layer of outreach, she said.

Councilor Tonya Graham made a motion to direct staff to secure a contract with a qualified recruitment consulting firm, up to $25,000, and resume recruitment by Aug. 1.

Graham said the city’s HR department is “fully capable” of handling recruitment for the next city attorney, but an outside eye for the city manager recruitment may prove beneficial for gauging interest and “aggressively” attracting applicants.

“I think it’s imperative that we have a recruitment firm on board doing that additional work because we have had some issues at this council and we are in a situation where there might be some doubt in the field about this position,” Graham said.

Moran said it appeared cost efficient and a “no brainer” to choose RVCOG over a professional recruiting firm, highlighting the organization’s advisory role and capacity to supplement the city’s HR department, which may soon face a substantial workload recruiting the next city attorney and finance director.

Councilor Gina DuQuenne said she felt confident in the level of outreach offered by RVCOG, and allowing the organization to lead the effort could ease city staff’s workload.

“I think we can do this and cast a broad net — seems like a good price point and a good timeline,” Akins said, speaking in favor of her proposal to work with RVCOG.

Graham’s motion to proceed with a recruiting firm passed 4-2, with Moran and DuQuenne casting nay votes.

City Council also confirmed minimum educational and experience qualifications for the city manager position: A bachelor’s degree with major coursework in public administration, business administration, finance or related field required, master’s degree preferred, and 10 years of work experience in government or similarly complex organization, including three to five years of experience as a city manager, deputy city manager or senior level public administrator.

DuQuenne cast the single nay vote on qualifications Tuesday.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.