CRESWELL — After more than four months without a permanent city administrator, the City Council has selected two finalists for the position from a total of 40 candidates from as far away as Maine and Texas.
The finalists are Michael Nitzsche, who was city manager of Nehalem from 1999 to 2012, and Andy Parks, founder and CEO of CiviData, a Bend tech company that aggregates information for local governments and public utilities. Parks is also the former interim city administrator of Madras and former assistant city manager/chief financial officer in Bend.
The finalists for the job, which pays $65,000 to $87,000 per year, will visit Creswell on Tuesday to meet with citizens and business owners.
The council spent much of Thursday in executive session interviewing five candidates via Skype, an Internet video live chat service. County Commissioner Faye Stewart was a guest in the session, which was also attended by interim City Administrator Jamon Kent and former Springfield City Manager Mike Kelly, who were assisting the council in its search for candidates.
Mayor Dave Stram said the council is looking for “a confident leader” who can guide the city on some big projects on the horizon. Water and sewer infrastructure repair, developing a 9,000 square foot city-owned building into a community center, transportation issues associated with the University of Oregon’s golf team’s headquarters, which is going in near Creswell, and the airport are all big issues the new administrator will help the city to navigate, Stram said.
There will be a public “meet and greet” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Center, and non-public interviews throughout the day.
Before narrowing the pool down to 15 semi-finalists, Kelly met individually with each councilor and Mayor Stram to find out what they were looking for in a candidate. He also asked several dozen community members and business owners similar questions. All parties agreed on main attributes, Kelly said after Tuesday’s council meeting, which started at 8 a.m. and lasted until just past 4 p.m. with a lunch break. Tuesday, the council plans to return to executive session after the meet and greet, preferably choosing the next city administrator then, Stram said.
Their hope is the person will start as soon as Aug. 1, a day after the temporary contract the city has with Kent, through Lane Council of Governments, is set to expire. Kent is a retired school superintendent who has contracted with LCOG in recent years — including almost a year in Creswell in 2006 — to bridge the gap between one leader’s resignation and their replacement by a new person.
Mark Shrives resignation, by mail, as Creswell’s city manager March 11 was followed by the resignations of City Councilors Jean McKittrick and Mike Anderson. The city’s leadership has been trying to recover from the turnover and controversy surrounding it since then.
Councilor Jacob Daniels, whose term expires in 2016, said he is looking for a candidate who will demonstrate strong leadership skills and work well with the council.
“I was looking for someone even-handed (who) wants to provide transparent government,” Daniels, 28, said. “Most importantly, I’m looking for someone I have a strong level of trust with or can develop that trust.”
At several points during the meeting, councilors and the mayor joked or indicated they wanted to simply keep Kent on the job, but Kent demurred each time and later during a phone interview said Creswell “deserves” a strong leader in the position. The city administrator works closely with the council, carrying out its wishes, and supervises a staff of 14.
Kent, who has also worked as temporary administrator in Coburg and Junction City, said that, considering the hiring time frame did not line up with the normal fiscal year, Creswell got a good pool of candidates.
“We know we are taking a bit of a risk,” Kent said in a phone interview after the meeting. “If these (candidates) don’t pan out, we’ll just wait.”