OV Search Committee discusses timeline to hire town manager

Date Published: 
November 25, 2011

The Ocean View Search Committee met on Nov. 18 to discuss possible motions on the Town’s management structure, as well as job descriptions and salary options for the town manager and finance director.

The committee was formed following the Nov. 8 council meeting, at which it was announced that the town would be terminating the employment contract of former town manager Conway Gregory, without cause, four months before that contract was due to expire.

“We’ve been at this for almost a year,” said Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader. “It’s not a well-kept secret that we’re looking for a new town manager. You really need to set deadlines, get on with it and put it to bed.”

“Our purpose right now is to get a new town manager,” agreed OVSC Chairman and Councilman Tom Sheeran.

The committee discussed what they thought the responsibilities of both the town manager and the financial director should be, and whether or not one person could do both jobs.

“One person can do it all, if you want it done poorly… and I don’t think that’s what you want,” said Finance Director Lee Brubaker. “Remember, we live in a town of retired people, who a lot of the time want to come in and talk to the town manager, and somebody has to do that, and that takes time.”

“You really need someone who is a receiver/collector… It’s not that Lee can’t do that. The more that you do, the less the quality,” added Schrader.

“That’s exactly the way I feel. We want a town manager with significant financial background, but he doesn’t have to be a bookkeeper by any means,” agreed Sheeran.

Mayor Gordon Wood said he believed that the committee needed to determine the future governmental structure of the town to present to council prior to starting the search for a new town manager.

He added that, without defining the structure, the council would be leaving itself open to further debate and contention regarding the town manager position, as well as the position’s interaction with Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin.

“Our decision to get an ad placed needs to be done as soon as possible,” responded Councilman Bob Lawless. “If we were to change the structure of our town government, that requires state legislature action. I don’t think we have any need to make firm decisions about our management structure now. We are dealing with a community of human beings. We’re fooling ourselves. No matter what we do, we are going to be open to criticism by parts of our community.”

The committee also discussed the interview process for the applicant pool. Lawless suggested that the town conduct two rounds of interviews, the first conducted by the three committee members and the final round by all five council members.

Schrader suggested that the committee and council review an evaluation form that was prepared for the town previously by resident and former human resources professional Kathy Vengazo.

“It’s a nice outline of stuff to look at in terms of being able to give you a checklist of things that you want to look by way of — to see if they have experience, knowledge or skills in particular areas. That’s a nice checklist to give you some basis for interviewing people.”

He said that the form had six to eight categories, with a number of subcategories, which suggested the applicants be asked if they have experience in municipal loans, grant searches and the preparation of budgets.

“You might want to just look at what was used during the prior search, just to get that list of questions as a good starting point,” suggested Brubaker.

Shrader also recommended that the committee request a writing sample from prospective candidates.

“As crazy as it sounds, I would ask for some kind of writing sample… That town manager is the face of the town. If you get a letter that’s got broken English in it because he or she doesn’t know any better, verb-subject arrangement and whatnot, it’s embarrassing.”

The committee determined that they hope to have a new town manager hired by April of 2012, with a projected deadline for applications in early January and a target date to offer the job to an applicant by the end of February.

The committee also hopes to have an advertisement drafted by its Nov. 28 meeting, so they may present it to council at the Nov. 29 meeting for possible approval.

“If you’re anxious to get somebody as a town manager, I would’ve liked to leave this meeting today with an ad,” said Schrader.

“There’s no reason we can’t get started. I will draft a first cut of an ad and, that way, at least when you come to a meeting, you won’t have a blank sheet of paper,” said Brubaker.

Schrader briefly discussed a 2008 town manager salary study put together by Gregory and told the committee that they would have to determine a salary bracket to move forward in the search process.

“At some point, your interview is going to require you to set the bracket. You’ve got to establish that,” he said. “This study does give you something to work with.”

The committee agreed not to expand its own number, for the time being, as they said adding community members could prove to be difficult during the selection process with the issues of confidentiality. They also noted that Council Members Michele Steffens and Geoff Christ, who aren’t on the committee, are welcome at the meetings and would be given verbal updates on the committee’s progress.

The committee is scheduled to meet at town hall on Nov. 28, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 at 9:30 a.m. The meetings are open to the public but will be closed to public comment. Portions of the hiring process can be expected to be closed to the public.