Councilors Discuss City Manager Interview Process

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With just about seven weeks left until the self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline, Raleigh City Councilors this week continued moving forward in the search for a new city manager.

Councilors fired the manager earlier this year and have been meeting since this spring to recruit and hire a replacement. Former City Manager Russell Allen held the spot for 12 years, and his contract ended June 30. During a special meeting Monday, Councilors received an update on the search, sifted through potential interview questions and discussed the different facets of the interview process.

Human Resources Director Steve Jones said that as of Aug. 9, the recruiting consultant, Springsted, has received more than 30 formal applications from around the country.

He expects that the number will increase as the closing date for the position approaches. After the Aug. 31 closing date, Jones will compile information about the applicants and pass out booklets to each of the Councilors by Sept. 6.

At a meeting on Sept. 13 Council members will review and discuss each of the candidates and begin narrowing down the pool.

The Interview Process
Along with narrowing down the applicant pool, Councilors were asked to sift through about 50 potential interview questions. Each Councilor will give Jones his or her top 10 to 15 questions so that he can put together a list of priorities.

Councilor John Odom suggested giving the candidates a few questions in advance so that they can provide a written response.

Some of the questions will also be incorporated into a 20-minute emergency scenario presentation.

The emergency scenario would feature a possible natural disaster or infrastructure failure, like a hurricane or mass power outage, and each candidate will provide a presentation outlining how he or she would handle and respond to that situation.

Each candidate will also give a sample 60-second press brief about the faux emergency.

Councilors will then have about 15 minutes for follow-up questions.

Councilors discussed the merits of a very likely event, such as a hurricane, versus a more obscure event, such as a solar flare, which could crash the electrical grid.

Councilor Bonner Gaylord said the upside to choosing something like a solar flare would be the possible need to think creatively and not read directly from a standard policy and procedure manual. Gaylord suggested a hurricane, and then after a pause, jokingly added, with zombies.

“I would like to see their thought process and how they think,” he said. “Sometimes you come at it obliquely with a process that there may not be a handbook for.”

Councilor Randy Stagner said that because there should be a plan in place for things like hurricanes or natural disasters, the hired city manager should also be able to follow that plan.

“So I’m comfortable with a natural disaster – hurricane, tornado or whatever,” he said.

Zombie apocalypse was not chosen as a scenario.

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