2017-05-11 / Front Page

Council Narrows Field for Manager Job

By Erich T. Doerr

The St. Ignace City Council used a Monday night, May 8, work session to narrow its list of candidates for city manager. The meeting saw councilmembers talk to members of the public about how the search is being conducted before deciding on the 11 candidates that will be contacted to schedule interviews.

The city received 54 applications to replace Les Therrian, who is retiring at the end of the year. The council does not expect that all 11 finalists will accept the invitation to interview. The names of those who do will be published.

The council would tentatively like to schedule interviews for Monday, May 22, Tuesday, May 23, and Tuesday, May 30. The interviews will start at 6 p.m. It is expected each interview will take about an hour. The city will not pay for travel unless very long distances are involved. Online video conferences could be scheduled for candidates living in distant states.

At least two rounds of interviews are anticipated, with the second round for the two or three finalists. Councilmember Paul Fullerton said the city would begin checking references once the field is narrowed to this point.

Citizens at Monday’s meeting were asked for their ideas about the process, and Betsy Turf inquired about the questions that would be asked. Mayor Connie Litzner said the council already has prepared a list of questions that are legally acceptable.

The council voted 5-2 to conduct the interviews with the entire council present instead of a smaller panel that could include people other than council members, pro- posed by Mayor Litzner.

“We want everyone’s viewpoints in there,” said Councilman Luke Paquin.

Mayor Litzner and Councilman Jay Tremble cast the dissenting votes. Mr. Tremble said he liked the idea of having additional outside viewpoints on the panel and noted some candidates could be intimidated by a full-council interview.

Councilman Steven Paquin said a city manager needs to interview well, as they will regularly need to answer questions from citizens and the media during their work.

When asked by Ms. Turf about the criteria used to pick out the most promising candidates, councilmember Jim Clapperton said the city looked heavily at education and prior experience. Previous jobs, managerial, grant writing, and planning experience, and education were all considered during the process. There were no minimum requirements set in advance for education or experience. Colleges were contacted during the search looking for interested student candidates, and the city received two applications as a result.

Alan Turf asked the council if candidates would be given a background check, and Mr. Clapperton said they would.

Resident Cindy Snyder asked how large the search area has been and was told it reached nationwide, with applications received from Texas, Oklahoma, and California. Council members had also spoken with Bob Valentine, the Escanaba city treasurer and human resources director, about the search, and he recommended looking for candidates with some form of local connection.

Candidates have a variety of government experience, some are newly graduated from college, and others have a military background. Most included a cover letter with their application stating why they wanted to work in St. Ignace. Luke Paquin said he is impressed with the caliber of candidates, and Mayor Litzner noted that several candidates have checked in by telephone since submitting their application.

The council, responding to a question from Ms. Turf, said the coming interviews will be used to gauge candidate creativity.

The interviews will be open to the public.

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