City Council gears up for next round of city manager search
by Paige Rentz
prentz@annistonstar.com
Jul 16, 2013 | 3073 views |  0 comments | 51 51 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Anniston City Council is gearing up for the next round of its search for a new city manager.

After extending the application deadline by a month and offering a higher salary range, the city attracted another 37 candidates, bringing the total to 78 applicants for the position that Don Hoyt will vacate at the end of August.

“While we worried that might complicate things and cause confusion,” Councilman Jay Jenkins said of the extension, “I think it was necessary.”

The top of the salary range was bumped from $120,000 to $150,000.

Jenkins said he’s still working through the last sets of applicants, but he has already identified six who he feels could be successful for Anniston, with potential candidates coming out of both sets of applications.

For Councilman Seyram Selase, the most important qualification for a city manager is experience, preferably in cities the size of Anniston or larger.

Of the 78 candidates, 28 have five years of experience managing local governments, and three more have served as assistant managers. Four more have served as department heads in local governments.

“As a young council, I feel like we’re doing a good job, but we’re still learning,” he said.

Jenkins said there are a number of applicants who did not meet the minimum criteria set forth by the council but added that some of these applicants “still brought with them some real skill packages that may be worth considering a second look.”

The candidates include attorneys, municipal judges, congressional interns and staffers, directors of convention centers, an architect, college instructors, accountants, fire fighters, police officers, sheriff’s deputies. Several have served as elected officials in their communities, and others have commanded military installations from Georgia to Alaska. Another ran for mayor of Anniston last year. A few noted their achievement as Eagle Scouts.

One applicant is a former special agent with the FBI. Another was a special investigator who conducted national security investigations on active federal employees and applicants.

A few of the applicants are Anniston natives, but most come from other states, including Florida, Georgia and Mississippi as well as California, Virginia, Rhode Island, Montana and Michigan.

In the job description, the city specified that applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in public administration, business administration, or a closely related field, while a master’s in public administration is preferred.

Of those who applied, 29 have master’s degrees in public administration, with three more working toward such diplomas. Four applicants have related master’s degrees, and another 11 have master’s degrees in business administration. Of the remaining candidates, three have bachelor’s degrees in business administration, and one has a bachelor’s degree in public administration.

Robert Burg, a partner with search firm Ralph Andersen & Associates, said it’s common to have a number of applicants who are not qualified for the position.

Ideally, he said, councils should have between 10 and 12 highly qualified candidates to choose from. With 28 candidates with prior experience, he said, the key moving forward is vetting the candidates and interviewing them until they find the proper fit for the city.

"On paper, they all look good. The vetting process should be critical,” Burg said, adding it’s important to make sure candidates have no controversies that will embarrass the council.

Councilwoman Millie Harris said she’s almost finished going through the batch of 78 applicants and has been doing outside research on candidates that catch her eye.

“A lot of these people, they didn’t leave under good circumstances,” she said.

Harris said she’s been trying to determine whether the negativity is the the result of problems or “is it because they really did something and created some waves?”

Councilman David Reddick said he’s interested to see how each of the council members’ short lists match up. But he believes that with the current council, whichever manager the members ultimately choose will have the opportunity to reach his or her potential.

“We’ve got a chance now to get a good city manager with a good city council to see things progress,” he said.

Earlier this month, Mayor Vaughn Stewart said he would like to see the council narrow its pool of applicants to between five and 10 by the end of July and begin interviews — via online video chat and then in person for the final few applicants — in August.

He said he would like to have someone in place by Sept. 1, the first day of Hoyt’s retirement.

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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