The Victoria City Council members have a very big decision ahead of them that will help set the tone for the city’s future in the coming years.
The council must select a new city manager because City Manager Charmelle Garrett plans to retire by the end of April.
The council wants to have the new manager in place by the time Garrett leaves, which is a short time before the city council election in May.
We see a problem with this goal. The new council, on which we know will have at least two new members, should have a say in who is hired because they are the ones who will work with the city manager.
We do not doubt the current council could do an excellent job in hiring a next manager, but we believe the new members should have a say in who that person is.
The city manager answers to the council, and the council answers to the city’s residents. It is important that the city’s new leader is someone all seven members can work with to bring the residents’ concerns before the administration and to see the city continue to grow.
The council has hired Strategic Government Resources, a corporate search firm, to advertise the opening, collect resumes and narrow down the applicants to the most qualified based on the city’s needs.
From there, the semifinalists will be presented to the council, who could then ask the firm to narrow it down more so individual interviews can be conducted and the new city manager selected and hired, explained Jennifer Fadden, president of executive recruitment and interim services for Strategic Government Resources.
The amount of public input in the process will be left up to the council, she said.
We believe that the candidates for mayor and city council should be included in the process from the beginning, which may be tricky because filing is underway until Feb. 15 for the election, and the search firm is already talking to community members and employees about what qualities they want in the next manager.
It may be best to include the candidates in the discussions once the filing is complete. They can have input before a vote is taken to select the city manager.
Also during the process, it is important for the finalists to meet the council candidates.
In the name of transparency, the council needs to make the finalists available to meet the public through public meetings and welcome feedback from the community.
Other public bodies do this, including the school district, University of Houston-Victoria and Victoria College, and it is successful.
Fadden said it is too early in the process to know if the city council will want to have public meet and greets, but it is up to the council to request it.
For the sake of transparency, council members need to insist on this. After all, the city manager is Victoria’s most important public position.
While the selection process is scheduled to take 12 weeks once the 30-day application period closes, council members should not make a hasty decision just so they can say they hired the new manager before Garrett’s departure. Victoria’s assistant city manager can readily step in until the new person is selected.
Council members should take their time and study the candidates. They need to also listen to the public and the consultants to hire the best person for the city, even if it takes the council into May or longer.