Schott directs goal session

Goals, ideas, and group discussion led to a clearer picture of what traits and experience the new city manager should possess. Jeff Schott, Director of the Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Iowa, led a goal-setting session Thursday night with the City Council. Assistant city manager Kent Harfst and city manager Ed Sadler were also present for the work session.

Schott was formerly the Marion City Manager for almost 20 years and worked for planning, community, and economic development also.

“At the institute what we do is work with local governments, cities, counties, regional agencies of various types…what we’re doing here in Webster City is goal setting,” said Schott, “The elected officials, key staff get together to think about, talk about, discuss, and ultimately make determinations for the upcoming two years that you as a team will be working together.”

Schott conducted the session in part to help clarify what skills and experience to look for in the new city manager should posses as well as how to find new city manager. Sadler’s last day on the job is March 11.

“What we do for a number of communities is help review the process, discuss some of the issues, perhaps lessons learned in terms of the replacement of a city manager or city administrator,” said Schott.

Schott noted that the council should review and clarify what duties are expected for the position. This includes preferred characteristics, traits, experience, and qualifications. Next, one-on-one interviews should be conducted between city officials and potential search consultants, he said.

“The key is to compare the traits to the applicant you’re looking at,” said Schott. “Don’t rely solely on the interview.”

He said some pros of going with a search firm include having a stable of candidates, background checks, experience, and a process to finding possible candidates already in place. Some cons include the high cost, specific filtering process may be too tight, and they may not find the best fit for the position.

Schott said some of the benefits of the city conducting the search include saving money, the ability to establish a direct relationship with potential candidates early on, and the benefit of being able to structure the interview themselves. However, the search also brings a large time commitment, possible loss of focus for the task at hand, and problematic screening.

He suggested the council take “The 3-legged stool method” to look at any potential candidate – resume, interview, and background checks.

Schott also encouraged attendees to go to the potential candidate’s community to get a sense of who that person is and what they accomplished outside of their resume.

“Always, always, always be mindful,” said Schott.

Schott reviewed prior goals made at the last goal setting session to update all members of the council. Schott also went over accomplishments that the council has achieved in 2015.

Request For Proposals to fill the city manager position were sent to 6 search firm on Feb. 16. The deadline is March 16 for those responses. The position was posted internally and no applicants came forward. Website advertisements were submitted to 12 sites on March 2. The advertisements will run for 8 weeks. The deadline for applicants through this site is May 2.

Significant new initiatives/programs that were brought up at the Thursday night meeting included attracting a developer to construct affordable rental housing, evaluate programs to promote downtown revitalization, and developing a long-term plan/financing mechanism for handling storm water.

Schott will prepare a report based off of the goal session for the City Council for review.