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Ashland seeking permanent city manager

Ashland's historic City Hall. file photo

ASHLAND — The recruitment process is underway for Ashland’s first permanent city manager since a charter change went into effect Jan. 1 eliminating the position of city administrator and creating a city manager position with greater administrative authority.

Interim City Manager Gary Milliman said staff requested proposals from consulting firms to prepare the job announcement, manage advertising and direct individuals interested in the post to submit their application.

One proposal was submitted within the time frame, at a cost of $7,500 to manage sourcing. City Council authorized up to $25,000 for recruitment contracts July 6.

“Most [consulting firms] are too busy to take on additional clients at this time,” Milliman said during a council study session Monday. “Recruitment has opened up significantly, nationally, for city managers and other city and county executives, and handling the full recruitment is a more lucrative activity; just doing the sourcing is not.”

Milliman invited the council to consider whether they should use preliminary recruiting materials supplied by Wendi Brown Creative Partners — prior to the firm’s withdrawal from a contract with the city in the spring — or to reapproach the process “anew” with consideration of where public engagement is well suited.

Councilor Tonya Graham said obtaining feedback from the people who will work with the permanent city manager is “essential” and advocated for a staff panel in the selection process.

Councilor Paula Hyatt supported contracting with a recruitment firm to manage sourcing with direct outreach, giving Milliman first review on applications, and organizing a series of community and staff panels to engage with candidates.

Hyatt said Milliman’s suggestion of a panel composed of city managers from other communities appealed because “they understand what it takes to do the job.”

Milliman will review city manager applications and vet promising candidates over the next four weeks before bringing a short list to the council.

“I’ve always believed in the idea of not having too many chefs in the kitchen, but adequate representation,” Councilor Shaun Moran said. “I would be more than comfortable with offloading a lot of this oversight to [Milliman’s] expertise and experience in finding us the type of candidate that would work for our broad, diverse constituency.”

Moran suggested proceeding with the already-approved community panel of stakeholders organized by Wendi Brown, and incorporating staff into the process with department head representation at Milliman’s discretion.

Milliman said Wednesday the job announcement is nearly ready to launch, as the consultant finalizes the language this week and prepares to distribute the posting across regional and national networks.

As recruitment progresses, City Council will have the opportunity to vote on a complete selection plan, including the composition and quantity of citizen and staff panels, he said.

Reach reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.