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Lakewood’s search for council member, city manager moves ahead

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on Jan. 28, 2013 at 9:26 pm with No Comments »
January 28, 2013 9:33 pm

The Lakewood City Council took steps toward appointing a new council member and hiring a new city manager Monday night.

After hearing about an hour of presentations from 12 residents seeking the appointment, the City Council moved toward hiring a consultant for between $19,000 and $40,000 to lead its search to find a successor for City Manager Andrew Neiditz.

Neiditz is leaving the city Feb. 23 to head South Sound 911, the new countywide emergency dispatch agency.

Mayor Don Anderson and council members Marie Barth and Mary Moss will work with Neiditz to make a recommendation on which of three consultants to hire. They will present their recommediation Monday, Feb. 4, for a decision by the full council. All three of the consultants that Neiditz brought forward have ties to Pierce County.

Neiditz estimated it will take three months to hire a city manager so a new hire should be in place by mid-May if the council launches its hunt in earnest around the time Neiditz departs next month.

The council will decide whether to search nationwide or regionally for the next city manager. Neiditz said the applicants will undergo a thorough financial and criminal background check. The council will then have to decide how it wants to pare down the finalists it names. The council could, for instance, hold public receptions for citizen comments on the finalists, or select a small group to travel to the finalists’ cities for firsthand interviews, among many options.

The three consultants are:

* Seattle-based Waldron and Company, which was the consultant used for the council’s hiring of Neiditz in 2005.

* Florida-based Colin Baenziger and Associates. The cities of Fife, Tacoma and Yakima in addition to South Sound 911 hired the firm in their searches for new chief administrators.

* Bellevue-based The Prothman Company, which Lakewood hired to lead the search for Choi Halladay, the city’s finance director, five years ago.

Waldron’s fee is between $37,000 and $40,000, Neiditz said, and the other two consultants will charge between $19,000 and $21,000.

The council spent the first hour of Monday’s meeting hearing from the 12 people who applied to fill the seat recently vacated by former Mayor Doug Richardson. He’s now serving on the Pierce County Council.

The candidates gave four-minute presentations focusing on their professional experience and civic involvement. Many noted how their background will aid the council’s search for a new city manager. Nearly all of them also noted the quality of the applicant pool.

“It’s a very impressive field, and we’re fortunate for it,” candidate Malcolm Russell said.

The council spent 30 minutes behind closed doors in executive session to evaluate the qualifications of the council candidates. State law allows this, but it requires the council to deliberate and make a decision in public, which is expected Monday. The council is scheduled to appoint a interim city manager and hold a farewell ceremony for Richardson at the same meeting.

The council didn’t tip its hand on which of the candidates its members were most impressed with. Anderson did encourage the candidates to stay engaged in city government if they aren’t selected. There are four council seats up for election in November.

“I’m really encouraged by the level of the participation we have and the quality of the candidates,” he said.

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

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