The City Council backed the hiring a firm to help conduct the search for the next City Manager on Tuesday night and Council President Mark Sideris said he received good reviews from other communities that have used the firm.
The Council unanimously voted to hire Community Paradigm Associates LLC, the only firm to apply. Councilors also approved the $14,000 bid for the work which includes getting input from the community, Watertown official elected and staff, recruiting candidates, assisting with candidate screening, hosting a community forum, and helping the Council to conduct interviews of finalists.
After speaking to references and others familiar with the Community Paradigm Associates , Sideris said he believes they will do a good job in Watertown.
“What this firm did is know what communities are looking for and find the candidates that are the best fit,” Sideris said. “I think we found an awesome firm to work with us. Their references check out, and before that I heard that this is a great company.”
He was also pleased with the bid submitted by Community Paradigm. The money to pay the search firm was transferred from the Council Reserve to the Manager Search account.
Councilor Lisa Feltner said she feels good about the hiring, and the price.
“The sun is shining on Watertown. … I think it is a bargain basement tag especially compared to private industry,” Feltner said.
Councilor John Gannon agreed that the price tag was much lower than he expected, and added that he knows the Principal of Community Paradigm, Bernard Lynch.
“(He) was a Town Manager himself for many years. He is well respected in the professional municipal management community and I think (the firm) is a great choice by the Ad Hoc Committee,” Gannon said.
Councilor Tony Palomba said the price is so low that he wanted to make sure the bid included all the features the Council wants, including the public meetings. Sideris said if the Council wants additional meetings they will have to negotiate that with the firm, but added even if another meeting is added he thinks that the cost will be reasonable.
On Oct. 28, the Ad Hoc Committee for the Town Manager Search met to interview the firms that had bid to become Watertown’s search consultant (the committee was named before the Nov. 2 Watertown Election that changes the name from of “Town” to “City of Watertown”). At the meeting Sideris told his colleagues that one of the firms, Municipal Resources Inc., had sent an email saying they were withdrawing their proposal because they did not have enough staff to handle the work.
The Ad Hoc Committee interviewed Bernard Lynch and Sharon Flaherty from Community Paradigm Associates on Oct. 28. They laid out their plan for conducting the manager search, including, according to the Ad Hoc Committee report:
- First they would get to know the Town and community by engaging with Town Councilors, Department Heads, and the public.
- Next they would put that information together to create a marketing tool, approved by the Council, to recruit candidates.
- Their firm maintains a big database of potential candidates with a background in municipal government to aid the search.
- Next they then work with a screening committee to review all respondents and rank their strengths and weaknesses, and develop a list of finalists.
- Finally they work with the Town Council to interview the finalists and make the final selection.
A search typically takes 14 to 16 weeks, and if a public forum with the finalists is held it will take a total of 18 weeks. Once an offer is made, it can take 30 to 60 days for the manager to start, according to Community Paradigm.
The public will have some opportunities to participate in the process. Community Paradigm representatives said they typically do community forums to get input as part of developing the advertisement to send out seeking candidates. They can also do an online survey and have a forum where the public can ask the finalists questions.
The firm said Watertown is in a good position to attract quality candidates, because it is looking to build on its existing success, rather than seeking a “change agent” to come in and fix problems. However, the job market is tight and there have been a lot of retirements, so Watertown has to emphasize its strengths to attract the best candidates.
Screening committees vary depending on the community, but typically they are five or six people, including Councilors, department heads and members of the public, according to Community Paradigm.
Attracting a diverse pool of candidates is among the Council’s priorities in the search. Community Paradigm’s representatives said it will reach out to professional associations of people of color, but added that while strides have been made in increasing the number of female candidates, they have not found a big pool of candidates of color.
When asked how the Council can narrow a search, Community Paradigm’s representatives said Councilors must focus on what they want. The Ad Hoc report said it would be someone “who has prior experience as a manager or assistant manager, and someone who is younger and moving up as opposed to someone at the end of their career.”
Felter said that she does not want people to get the wrong impression about that part of the Ad Hoc Committee’s report.
“I don’t think we imply in any agism,” Feltner said. “Regardless of age, we are not looking for someone to come in and coast because things are good here, but someone that is willing to work hard and take on challenges.”
During Public Forum, a resident asked whether the focus on younger candidates would mean an older candidate who is the best candidate would not be hired? Sideris said that the person’s age would not eliminate the person from being hired.