PT to hire recruiter: Council seeks to fill city manager position

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council will hire a recruiter to find candidates for its second city manager.

After months of soliciting the qualities the community wants in a new city manager when the city’s first and only city manager, David Timmons, leaves at the end of June, the Port Townsend City Council opted to get help in finding the perfect candidate.

The council voted 5-1 Monday to direct staff to interview, select and recommend an executive recruiter to conduct the city manager recruitment process.

Amy Howard was absent and Bob Gray voted no.

Next Monday, the council will conduct a special meeting to review the recommendation for a specific firm at which time the recommendation can be adopted or other action could be taken.

“This is the most important thing we will do all year,” Mayor Deborah Stinson told other council members.

The initial recommendation from staff was to conduct the recruitment in-house. After debate, the council decided the expertise and management of the process would be better served by an outside entity.

The cost of a professional recruiter is estimated as between $26,000 and $30,000. The idea of a hybrid approach where some of the recruitment activities would stay in-house would cost less and was left open as a possibility for discussion.

“I think we can do this in-house,” Gray said. “We don’t have a budget for it and we are $1.8 million in the red.”

He added that “$30,000 is not a lot, but we need every bit we can get. I also think our HR department can handle this. It’s boilerplate what these recruiters do. We have a really unique city here.”

Stinson said she recently had conversations with a few city managers and mayors at a regional meeting.

“They convinced me we should take a look at the recruiter route,” Stinson said. “They know people who aren’t actively looking but have said if you ever come across a great opportunity in the Northwest, give me a call. And the depth of their background check is much more robust than what we could do in-house.”

Council member David Faber said he was ambivalent. He said that the average tenure of a city manager is three years and so the idea of spending $30,000 to find one was not something he was sure he wanted to do.

He said he liked “the longevity we currently have and am not looking for an end-of-career person.”

Council member Michelle Sandoval said the fact the city is “so unique” is a reason for using a recruiting firm.

“You need a disinterested third party to be a matchmaker,” Sandoval said. “It’s about sizing things up unemotionally. We’d be creating a whole new job and it’s first time we’ve done it, and then we’re expecting to get it right.

“Sometimes you aren’t doing it at a professional level. Our role is different. Whether it is HR, Nora [Mitchell], we all play a part in it, but a different part than a recruiter will play. We will still be involved, we will still interview, and we will vote.”

Sandoval said she had concerns that “we are too close, too involved emotionally. We want to get it right.”

A timeline of recruitment activities says that recruitment firm proposals would be considered and a contract would be executed at the end of February.

Social media sites and other ways of attracting applicants would begin and initial applicant screening would take place at the end of March.

The recruiter would conduct phone interviews and reference checks at the beginning of April. Candidate interviews would be done at the beginning of May.

It is hoped that a May 13 target could be met for extending an employment offer and begin negotiations, with the selection announced June 1. The city expects a 30- to 90-day relocation process, and the successful candidate’s start date would be no later than Sept. 1.

After Timmons leaves, Nora Mitchell, finance and administrative services director, will act as the interim city manager until the new manager is on staff.

Mitchell, who was sitting in for Timmons at Monday’s meeting, said she has spoken with three firms that search for key government positions.

“If we want them to do the full approach of sourcing candidates and doing background searches, and checking social media, we may want to look at the full-blown recruitment option.

“The biggest thing is finding a firm and deciding how to use them.”

A professional recruiter was used to hire Timmons and Mitchell.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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