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Lakewood to hire consultant to lead likely search for new city manager

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on Jan. 14, 2013 at 9:09 pm with No Comments »
January 14, 2013 9:09 pm

The city of Lakewood plans to hire a consultant as it looks to hire the third city manager in its nearly 17-year history.

City Manager Andrew Neiditz recommended bringing in an outside party to help with that selection given Lakewood’s large size and the complexity of the issues facing it.

“It certainly has become the norm for cities our size,” he said.

Neiditz has been selected to lead South Sound 911, Pierce County’s new emergency dispatch agency.

Neiditz said he is reviewing several consultants and would bring them to the council for its consideration and discussion on Jan. 28.

The benefit of a consultant is it can hone in on what the council is seeking in a new city manager and reach out to its network of people who match those qualifications to gauge their interest in the job, the city manager explained.

Councilman Don Anderson said the hiring of a city manager is the most important decision a city council can make. He said he wanted someone with experience with budgets, military relations and economic development.

Neiditz said the city can hire a consultant in the range of $20,000 and city staff could help with the process. The city hired a consultant to land Neiditz, who succeeded Scott Rohlfs as city manager in March 2005.

He and South Sound 911 directors are negotiating his contract that is scheduled to come up for a vote Jan. 23. Neiditz has said he foresees no problem reaching an agreement.

If hired, Neiditz is required under his contract with the city to give 30 days of notice so the earliest he could leave Lakewood would be late February if there are no hiccups in his contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, council members also agreed to invite in the 12 candidates seeking appointment to departing Mayor Doug Richardson’s seat to make four-minute presentations on Jan. 28.

The presentation could be followed potentially by a executive, or closed, session to discuss their qualifications, which is allowed by state law. State law requires the council to deliberate and make a decision in public.

Candidates who can’t attend will be asked to submit a video.

City Attorney Heidi Ann Wachter said state law and city rules give the council wide latitude in how it goes about making its selection. The council can decide whether to hold interview or ask for presentations involving some or all of the candidates, for instance, Wachter said.

The council had said they wanted to make an appointment on Feb. 4 and agreed to stick to that schedule. It will be important to get someone on board as early as possible as the city begins its likely search for a new city manager, they agreed.

“Sooner rather than later would be my preference because we do have some issues that we need to tend to,” Councilman Jason Whalen said.

Richardson, the longest-serving council member in Lakewood’s history, will resign from the council Tuesday, Jan. 15. Voters elected him to the Pierce County Council in November.

The person appointed would fill the seat until the election results for a new council member are certified in late November.

Richardson did not attend the meeting because he has said he didn’t want to be perceived as influencing the decision-making of the council he’s leaving behind.

The council plans to hold a formal send-off for him next month.

You’re invited to follow Christian Hill on Twitter @TNTchill.

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