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

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

New city manager hiring process moving ahead

Acting city manager asked that economic director be named interim


Campaign flyer via US Mail

John Hozey, former city manager of Valdez, has declared himself a write-in candidate for city council in this Tuesday's municipal elections.

The city council fired the city manager a week ago Monday – so how will they a hire a new one and who will be in charge until a permanent administrator is hired?

Those were the questions council attempted to answer Thursday night during a special work session.

By council consensus, an executive committee was formed consisting of council members Nate Smith and Chris Moulton, Mayor Larry Weaver and the city clerk's office. Its task was to complete a request for proposals (RFP) that would be published to seek proposals from executive recruiting companies.

"Their purpose was just to meet with us and get the RFP out for the city manager search for the company we'll use," Sheri Pierce, city clerk, said in a telephonic interview Monday.

According to Allie Hendrickson, deputy city clerk, the committee emailed 20 firms last Friday with its RFP.

It is hoping for a quick response.

"A Council work session is scheduled for Friday May 1st at 6:00 p.m. in Council Chambers to review any bids received and continue the City Manager search process discussion," Hendrickson said Monday in an email to the Valdez Star. "The work session is open to the public."

A more contentious issue arose when council was tasked to decide whether or not it would hire an interim city manager.

Acting city manager Todd Wegner, the current assistant city manager, recommended council name Lisa Von Bargen, the city's current director of economic development, as interim city manager, with an eye towards hiring her on a permanent basis.

Wegner's job description as assistant city manager states - among other duties – that he assumes duties as "...acting city manager role during the absence of the city manager."

Wegner told council he felt Von Bargen is better suited to the role as acting or interim city manager and he had no aspirations to be city manager.

Wegner called the void left by former city manager John Hozey this "...huge sucking thing.."

and said he was overwhelmed with the additional work abruptly put on his plate. He also said the city manager position did not jibe with his career plans and intentions of spending the rest of his life in Valdez.

"I'm very content where I was at," he told the council. "I have no aspirations to be city manager."

He said Von Bargen is more familiar with the inner workings of city departments and projects and would likely use a team approach in a roll as interim city manager.

Police chief Bill Comer and Darryl Verfaillie, director of parks and recreation, spoke on Von Bargen's behalf and backed Wegner's recommendation. Valdez businesswoman Karen Ables, a former council member, and Doug Davies, a candidate for city council in the upcoming May 5 elections, also testified to council backing Wegner's proposal to name Von Bargen interim city manager.

Valdez Star file photo

John Hozey, former city manager, at a ribbon cutting at a city project earlier this year.

Diane Kinney, the city's director of ports and harbors, was the lone voice of dissent in the debate, while other city administrators voiced no opinion. She said the workload of city staff was already so high that a number of important duties were falling through the cracks and assigning more duties to a department head would be unwise.

Von Bargen supporters said bringing in an interim city manager from outside city hall could put a bigger burden on current city staff because an outsider would need considerable input from city departments to be able step into the leadership role.

Calling it a crazy idea, Von Bargen herself later suggested council look at hiring Hozey as interim city manager to temporarily replace himself at his former position.

The council deferred making a decision on hiring an interim city manager.

"Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast," council member Jim Shirrell said.


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