Watertown Receives Some Strong Candidates for City Manager, Screening Committee to Narrow Pool

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Watertown City Hall

The pool of candidates applying for the Watertown City Manager position includes some strong applicants, according to the consultant hired to help with the process.

The Ad Hoc City Manager Screening Committee met Thursday night to start the process of reviewing resumes of the applicants for City Manager. They are being assisted by Bernie Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates, who said the number of hopefuls is pretty typical.

“In the end we had 23 candidates apply for the position, which is consistent with where we are with many of our communities: somewhere between 20 and 30 candidates,” Lynch said.

City Council President Mark Sideris, the chair of the Ad Hoc City Manager Search Committee, said there are also some who will not likely make the list.

“We have all had chance to look at the resumes,” Sideris said. “Without saying too much, there are some candidates who may not fit here.”

The next step will be for the Committee to narrow that number to several semifinalists. The Committee will interview the semifinalists and recommend a few finalists to be presented to the community and the City Council for interviews.

Thursday night, the Committee met in executive session to review the resumes of the applicants and they will select a group of semifinalists.

“The Committee needs to go into executive session. The Committee needs to start talking about these candidates,” Lynch said. “The reason they can go into executive session is to allow confidentiality of the candidates to remain intact.”

Usually, communities choose between six and eight semifinalists, Lynch said, but he has seen as few as five and as many as nine. The process of interviewing candidates usually takes two to three weeks after the are selected, Lynch said, and he expects each interview to take between 60 to 75 minutes.

When the semifinalists are interviewed by the Screening Committee, it will also be done in executive session. Lynch said Community Paradigm has developed a list of topics to discuss with the semifinalists during the interviews. The topics were developed from Community Paradigm’s discussions with the Council, department heads, the public, and City employees, as well as from the online survey and community forum they conducted.

“There are a large number of topics to get the full understanding of type of candidates, their backgrounds, and how they address these (topics) in the City of Watertown,” Lynch said.

The topics semifinalists will be asked about include:

  • The careers of the candidates
  • Why they want to be City Manager of Watertown
  • Why they decided to work in municipal management
  • Their leadership and management style, particularly how it relates to the style wanted by department heads, the City Council, and members of the public
  • Their thoughts on citizen relations, community engagement, and government transparency
  • Their thoughts and experience with respect to to diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Management of human resources and how they would maximize human resources
  • Their experience with collective bargaining
  • Their financial management expertise
  • Their project management experience (which Lynch said is particularly important with as the City is engaged in multiple large capital projects)
  • Their experience with land use and community development, and sustainability
  • Their thoughts on communication and relationships with external entities, as well as relations with members of the Council

Following the interviews of the semifinalists, the Screening Committee will narrow down the group to a handful of finalists, Lynch said. Most communities choose three, some have four, but Lynch said he does not recommend choosing only two.

The finalists will undergo a similar interview process, but in public. They will meet with the City Council, and appear at forums with the general public and City employees. The forums are an opportunity for people to meet the finalists and ask them questions, Lynch said.

Sideris said he has an order he would like to hold these public sessions.

“I think that we want to listen to what the outside community has to say and then we will bring them in front of the City Council and let the Council ask as many questions as they like,” Sideris said.

The public forums will likely be announced about two weeks ahead of time, Lynch said. During that time, Community Paradigm will contact the finalists’ references, and do background and criminal checks.

The Ad Hoc Screening Committee members are: Mark Sideris (City Council President) – Chair, Vincent Piccirilli (City Council Vice President), Caroline Bays (City Councilor and Chair of Personnel and City Organization Committee), Steve Magoon (Acting Deputy City Manager), Deanne Galdston (Superintendent of Schools), Daniel D’Amico (Resident), and Felicia Sullivan (Resident).

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