The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Interim city manager may be coming to city hall

Council seriously exploring option of bringing in temporary administrator

 


City officials are taking a very close look at hiring an interim city manager.

The Valdez City Council held a work session last Friday afternoon to discuss the concept after representatives from Slavin Management Consultants – the firm hired by council to conduct its executive search – visited Valdez and suggested the town would benefit by bringing in a temporary city manager.

The hiring process for a new city manager could take six months or longer according to several council members who favored hiring an interim manager.

“We’ve got some serous challenges out there in terms of our project season,” council member Jim Shirrell said during the discussion.

Todd Wegner, who was assistant city manager to former city manager John Hozey, has been acting city manager since late April.

Council abruptly dismissed Hozey, who had held the position since 2005, and terminated his contract leaving a leadership gap Wegner, at the time, was reluctant to fill.

During work session discussions on the subject, Mayor Larry Weaver said he felt Wegner had become more comfortable in the position and questioned the need for an interim manager, as did newly elected council member Lea Cockerham, who appeared at the work session telephonically.

“I think our department city heads are well qualified for the jobs ahead,” Cockerham said, especially on new harbor project. “I just think it’s a cost that’s maybe not needed.”

Lisa Von Bargen, the city’s director of economic development, who is acting city manager in place of Wegner, who was out of town on a previously scheduled obligation, also appeared telephonically and opposed hiring an interim city manager.

Von Bargen said training an interim city manager would take valuable staff time away from the workload of current staff.

Shirrell suggested a well-qualified interim city manager would need orientation, not on-the-job training.

Weaver and Cockerham both said they shared Von Bargen’s concerns.

Slavin Management had a suggested candidate for council consideration but several members hoped for a field of candidates to choose from. Others were concerned that no reference check had been completed on the candidate before his name and resume were presented to council for consideration.

The council directed Sheri Pierce, the city’s clerk, to ask Slavin Management to find additional candidates in time for the city’s next council meeting on June 15.

During work sessions, the council cannot make official decisions or vote on matters on the agenda, but can reach a consensus for future actions.

“I don’t want to get into a search of a acting manager,” Shirrell said, noting that he was prepared to act on the recommendation of Slavin Management because that was the reason the firm was hired by the council – to give its recommendations and present candidates for an interim and then permanent city manager.

“You do the search,” he said, “give me the recommendation.”

Some council members believed the six-month timeline for hiring a new city manager might be optimistic and that if an interim manager is to be hired, council action should be swift.

“I think it needs to be taken care of sooner rather than later,” council member Chris Moulton said.

As per the city’s personnel regulations, council was informed that Wegner will be awarded a two-step pay increase for his time as acting city manager.

 

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