Photo and story by Hannah Adams / Contributing Writer
On Thursday, the Murfreesboro City Council held a meeting at City Hall to discuss the strategies involved in hiring a new city manager. Since former City Manager Rob Lyons’ resignation back in December, the seat has remained open.
City Councilman Rick LaLance, Kirt Wade, Eddie Smotherman and Bill Shacklett were present at the meeting along with Mayor Shane McFarland and Vice Mayor Madelyn Scales Harris.
Murfreesboro has been without a city manager for two months now. Lyons was promoted to city manager in 2009 after successfully leading the city into recovery from the Good Friday tornado that same year. In the years he served in the position, Lyons also helped shape the city’s growth with projects, such as the Gateway Business District and conference center in Murfreesboro.
The Strategic Government Resources, a business that partners with local government to help recruit new leaders, is helping the council make this decision.
SGR Senior Vice President of Recruitment Doug Thomas and Senior Vice President Recruiter Kurt Hodgen led the meeting.
The purpose of the SGR getting involved is to not only help alleviate some of the pressure from the council but also to delegate what the council and community are looking for in their new city manager.
“We want that person to be able to connect with each of you, collectively, as government body members,” Thomas said. “The most important thing you can do is appoint the city manager. He or she is going to help you achieve your goals and expectations for the city.”
Earlier in the day, Thomas and Hodgen talked with individual council members to discuss what their ideal candidate’s attributes would be. The council determined they are looking for someone who will possess a high visual role, not only within the council but also within the community. They want someone who is decisive, a strong community manager with strong ethics and morals and who can focus on diversity within the workforce.
Among the aforementioned attributes, the council is also seeking someone who will understand the relationship between Middle Tennessee State University and the community, and the importance of having such a large university at the heart of the city.
“Having a university in your community always adds value,” Thomas said. “With downtown relationships, there are also pressures as the campus grows … and ripple effects on neighborhoods and planning zones. Those are pretty important skills to have as well.”
During the meeting, Thomas proposed a 90-day hiring plan, which he broke down by stages. Within the first 30 days of this plan, SGR will go through the motions of creating profile brochures that will describe what “life in Murfreesboro is all about.” They will include information on government structure, when elections occur and the general functions and responsibilities of a city manager. These brochures will, essentially, promote the city and entice possible applicants.
After this process, and upon the council’s approval to continue, SGR will then announce the position publicly and begin to launch interviews and narrow the search down to between eight and 12 candidates.
The second month will include going back through the applicants and helping the council to select the ones that stand out the most. Through that point, the candidates will go through a number of exercises and material to move them onto the semifinals. This includes a questionnaire that goes through their background, management style, accomplishments, controversies they may have been involved with and specific questions pertaining to the job ahead of them.
Those who pass into the semifinals will have to perform in a prerecorded, interview-based video that will be sent to the councilmen, along with their cover letter, résumé and questionnaire. The council will have 10 days to go through this material to determine which applicants will move on to become finalists.
Typically, the finalists will include three to five candidates. These finalists will go through additional exercises that will include their one-year plan for the city. They will also have an extensive background check run before any decision is made. Since the list of candidates will be narrowed down significantly at this point, this will give the council members a chance to get to know the candidates on a more personal level.
“We’re just looking for great leadership,” Shacklett said. “I think we’ve got something here that’s very desirable. I will be very disappointed if we don’t have a phenomenal batch of candidates.”
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