The Indianola City Council could decide as soon as Monday on a search firm to help it replace former city manager Ryan Waller, who left the city recently to become city manager in Marion, Iowa.
The council held a special meeting Monday to interview three search firms. Interim city manager Charlie Dissell said the city had issued a request for proposals and received 10 proposals and agreed to interview four. One firm backed out due to a conflict on the night of the meeting.
Each firm was allotted 20 minutes for a presentation and 10 minutes for questions.
The goal of bakertilly public sector executive recruitment is to make the city’s decision difficult, said director Anne Lewis, who made her presentation via Zoom.
They want city officials to say “that was a hard decision because you brought us a great candidate pool that has experience in the areas that are important to you in Indianola,” she said.
The company’s process includes five steps, beginning with a creating a brochure to market the position through traditional advertising databases and directly to prospective candidates, she said.
Lewis said they would target a regional area but would reach out nationally.
“You never know who wants to move back home,” she said.
The group also works with groups like Women Leading Government, National Forum for Black Public Administrators and Emerging Local Government Leaders to identify candidates, she said.
In addition to a resume and cover letter candidates complete a written questionnaire and a video interview in which questions are posed on a computer screen and the candidate has three minutes to answer, Lewis said. The company then does background and reference checks and sets up interviews.
The search would take three to four months and cost $24,500, she said. The company also offers a guarantee, promising to redo the search for the cost of advertising and interview travel if the selected candidate leaves in the first year.
“It is your search and our goal is to make your decision difficult,” she said.
GovHR has completed numerous searches for Iowa communities, including Bondurant, Windsor Heights, Burlington and Knoxville, said Charlene Stevens, a senior vice president with the firm, who was at the council chamber Monday.
All staff members have worked in local government, she said, including Stevens herself, who spent 22 years in local government including as a city administrator in Minnesota. Since 2009 she said they have done 800 recruitments in 41 states. Of 286 placements, 89 percent remain in their position and even the 31 who left stayed in their jobs for more than three years, she said.
The process will be tailored to Indianola’s needs, she said, beginning by working to “understand your organization, the challenges, opportunities, and what's unique to your culture.” They then create a brochure and promote the position on social media, advertising and personal outreach.
“We always recommend you do a national search and a broad-based search because you never know who might want to come home,” she said. “We don't just post the position and hope that people apply.”
The company handles everything from tracking applicant materials to screening candidates via a 45-minute to hour-long live video interview. They also conduct background and reference checks as well as doing media searches on candidates before bringing them to the city, she said.
“I’m a former city administrator, I don't like surprises,” she said. “I know councils don’t like surprises so we work very hard to make sure you’re not surprised by the candidates.”
The search would take between 90 and 120 days and would cost $22,500, Stevens said. They also promise to redo the search if the successful candidate leaves the position in the first year, said Stevens.
Council member Greg Marchant asked Stevens to elaborate on a search she did for Windsor Heights.
“That’s a good example of one where we really stuck with them through the process,” she said. The city was unable to reach an agreement with the candidate they wanted to hire, so GovHR worked with them to pause the search, adjust the salary and then re-advertise the position.
“They were able to get a much stronger pool,” of 30 to 40 candidates, which is about the number Indianola could expect, she said.
Hinson Consulting is a firm of current and former city managers from around Iowa, said owner Brent Hinson.
“We have very, very deep, extensive experience with local government,” said Hinson, who is deputy city administrator and finance director in Mason City. “We've been on the front lines, we understand the importance to the organization.”
The three person staff has a combined 68 years of experience in city manager and administrator roles and has completed 35 city manager searches since 2013, he said.
“Your candidate pool for a position like this will really be Iowa adjoining states, and then candidates that have some Midwestern background,” he told the council. “We have very deep, extensive relationships throughout that candidate pool.”
They focus on finding the person with the right “fit,” he continued.
“There's no one size fits all situation, you can have a very qualified candidate that's just not the right candidate for you,” he said. “We're going to try to find that person that has qualifications, the expertise, and then above all the fit to really be successful in the community.”
Hinson said they start by meeting with elected officials, both those currently serving and those who will take office in January, as well as city staff and potentially the director of the Chamber of Commerce and other community members.
Hinson said they will advertise the position, but much of their recruiting will be personal, reaching out to friends who might consider the position or know someone who would.
Hinson said they don’t offer any guarantee.
“We all have sterling reputations in Iowa local government. We want to maintain those reputations,” he said. “We want you to feel good about the process, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of factors that we don’t control. We will do everything we can to get you the right fit, but ultimately, it’s your decision.”
The process would take three to four months, he said, and cost $16,000 plus expenses.
Before council members heard from the search firms council member Greg Marchant moved that the council remove public comment from the agenda for the night.
“We’re here to interview search firms and I want to make sure we get right to it and give them the time they deserve,” said Marchant.
Council member Gwen Schroder asked if anyone was at the meeting for public comment. Susan Glick, who regularly attends meetings, raised her hand, but the council voted unanimously not to allow public comment.
Glick said after the meeting that she had planned to tell the council that she disagreed with them moving forward on the hiring process.
“I thought they were being disrespectful of the vote by hiring a company when half of them aren’t going to be there after the first of the year,” she said. “I didn’t feel that they should proceed.”
Mayor Pam Pepper and council members Greg Marchant, Greta Southall and Bob Kling will be leaving the council at the end of the year. Newly elected council members Steve Richardson and Ron Dalby were at Monday’s meeting but did not participate in the discussions.