Search for new city manager well underway
Council approves contract with firm to find a new top administrator
An executive search firm has been hired by the city to help it recruit a new city manager.
The move came Monday night when the Valdez City Council voted unanimously to approve a contract with Slavin Management Consultants – an executive recruitment services firm – to provide candidates for the position.
The contract with Slavin will cost $26,875 and will be paid for the city council's reserve fund.
The council held a work session last Friday to review proposals it had received after an executive committee formed by Mayor Larry Weaver vetted six proposals it received from executive search firms. The proposals came after the committee sent solicited proposals with an RFP – request for proposals – to 20 such firms across the US.
"We all felt comfortable with what he had to say," said council member Nate Smith, who is a member of the executive committee.
At Monday night's meeting, Smith said Slavin agreed to include a search for an interim city manager at no additional cost – if the council later decided to make an interim appointment.
Todd Wegner, who is the assistant city manager, has been tasked by the council to be acting city manager since it abruptly terminated its contract with former the city manager, John Hozey.
At a work session held by council Friday, Wegner received explicit instructions by council to clarify his position within the city's ranks after council member Ruth Knight complained that she saw Hozey speaking directly to the Ports and Harbor commission at its regular meeting.
She said that Hozey's participation at the meeting gave the appearance that he was speaking on behalf of council because Wegner was not at the meeting.
For his part, Wegner said he has been consulting with and relying on Hozey a great deal in the days after his appointment as acting city manager.
He also took umbrage at questions regarding the idea that the council hire an interim city manager from outside the ranks of current city department heads.
"It feels like you don't have confidence in myself or staff," he told council.
He also reiterated his top choice for an interim city manager.
"I gave my recommendation Friday," Wegner said at last week's meeting, referring to his firm suggestion to council that Lisa Von Bargen, the executive director of city's economic development department, be appointed interim city manager.
At the that meeting, Wegner told council he did not wish to be acting city manager and had no aspirations to ever be city manager.
After a week on job, Wegner told council that he feels confident that the work and leadership at city hall will be accomplished under his guidance.
Wegner was directed by Mayor Larry Weaver to communicate and clarify with all city staff – and elected or appointed officials – that he, Todd Wegner, was acting city manager and in charge of city staff and projects.
"The last two weeks have been a time of transition." Wegner wrote in an email he sent to city employees, council members and commissioners. "At Friday's city council meeting I was given clear direction to move forward and lead as Acting City Manager. Until further notice I will be assuming all responsibilities and duties of this position."
He also said he was relying heavily on Hozey for guidance.
"There have been some questions about why John Hozey, our former City Manager, has been attending city related meetings and has been at City Hall after his termination," Wegner's email continued. "I want to be clear that Mr. Hozey is no longer in a decision-making role. However, Mr. Hozey had been our City Manager for 10 years, and he has a wealth of knowledge that is critical to the completion of many of the projects we have been working on for years. I will be using him as a resource. I am grateful that he is willing to volunteer his time to help our City in this way. I explained my rational to the City Council members and I believe there was consensus to use this resource. If you have any further questions about Mr. Hozey's role, please ask me directly as to avoid unproductive speculation."
Valdez Star photo
Former city manager John Hozey, left, chats with Mike Wells, an outgoing council member, after Monday night's city council meeting.
Hozey attended Monday night's council meeting and was seated at the back of the audience with Von Bargen and Darryl Verfaillie, the city's parks and rec director.
In an interview Monday before that evening's council meeting, Hozey said he had every intention to continue living in Valdez if at all possible.
"At the moment, my plan is to stay in Valdez," he told the Valdez Star. "We love it here and don't want to leave."
He also said he has taken out a business license as a consultant in hopes of building a clientele in need of administrative and public management services.