Janesville72.1°

Public input into city manager over

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
April 11, 2008
— The community’s involvement in choosing a new city manager is likely over.

City Manager Steve Sheiffer will retire in fall.


The council hired a recruiter who last week held sessions with the public. Invitations were sent to specific residents, asking them what they’d like to see in the new city manager. A session for the general public also was held.


At those meetings, some residents suggested that the public be allowed additional input.


But no council member at a meeting earlier this week spoke in favor of such involvement, and two—Paul Williams and Russ Steeber—voiced opinions against it.


“You don’t hire somebody by consensus,” Steeber said. “That’s what you’ve got elected officials for. (Anything else) almost becomes an election rather than a hiring process.


“The people who wanted to give input have already done so,” Steeber said.


Heidi Voorhees, the council’s recruiter, said the council has given the community more chance for input than the majority of councils with which she has worked.


The input—which will help her write a profile of the candidate Janesville is seeking—is what drives the hiring in the final analysis, she said.


The council on Tuesday will meet to OK the final draft of the advertisement to appear in national publications. It also will OK the profile.


John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville, a private economic development organization, said some people in the community have experience hiring top-tier executive talent.


“Not that our council might not have those skills … but three of them are brand new,” he said.


Beckord said he didn’t know if any of the council members had ever hired an executive manager who will oversee a $62 million budget.


The council could consider involving executives and possibly union people from the private sector—“folks who have had some experience in hiring high-level talent,” he said.


Beckord suggested forming a screening committee that could offer some input about the candidates who visit to council members.


Resident Dale Hicks gave as an example the process that his church used for hiring a pastor. The church board narrowed the candidates to three, and the pastors were invited for question-and-answer sessions with the congregation.


“The decision is still the council’s,” resident Kay Deupree noted.


But residents could contact council members and give their opinions, resident Billy McCoy said.


Some communities allow residents more involvement, such as scheduling open houses to meet the final candidates. Others assemble panels of residents as part of the interview process. Others ask residents to take candidates on city tours.


Residents then are invited to give feedback to the council.



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