February 11, 2016

Council members draft profile for city administrator job

Danedri Thompson

Council members worked to create a profile of the person they hope will replace former city administrator Stewart Fairburn.

They aren’t interested in someone who will micro-manage city affairs. Otherwise, the council members did not appear to reach a consensus on the other traits they’re seeking. That may come later as resumes are examined, Dave Unmacht, a hiring consultant with Springsted explained to the group.

He said typically a city administrator search yields 30 to 50 candidates. Springsted will weed out those who don’t match the candidate profile. For example, he said he would discard applicants who weren’t qualified for the job.

And then council members will determine how many and which of the remaining candidates they are interested in interviewing.

“I hope we get around 40 (candidates),” Unmacht said. “But if you get 60 or you get 10, you just need one good one.”

Council member Dennis Pugh said the ideal candidate in his mind will come from a larger city.

“Gardner is going to continue to grow,” Pugh said. “It would be key to have someone with that growth experience. I think that’s huge.”

The city manager’s number one priority should be taking care of the people who already live in

Gardner, council member Larry Fotovich said.

“I want someone who lives their life in an austere manner,” he said. “A lives-among-us kind-of-guy or gal. Someone who wants to live here… Somebody that can passionately defend their position and is willing to quit on principle. Someone who sees the train coming and gets out of the way – not stands there and says, ‘you told me to stand here.’”

Prior to meeting with council members, Unmacht spent the day Wednesday meeting with city staff as well as the director of the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation and the president of the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Involving the eco-devo people in town – they have their own agenda and most of them don’t live here,” Fotovich said.

Council president Kristy Harrison said economic development skills of potential candidates was low on her priority list, because the city provides funding to the two organizations for economic development assistance.

However, council member Chris Morrow said once the EDC or the Chamber has a potential business on the hook and interested in Gardner, the city administrator should be able to close the deal.

Members appeared to agree that they want candidates who will be approachable.

Harrison used Police Chief Ken Francis as an example. He’s visible in the community and spends time in local restaurants and coffee shops.

“The chief is great about PR and communication,” she said. “I want someone who balances that level of professionalism with being responsive.”

She said one of the new hire’s biggest challenges will be budgetary.

“We have no money and a lot of projects,” Harrison said.

The city’s debt is the number one issue the new hire will face, Fotovich said.

“He is going to have to say no to non-essentials and have the courage to do that,” he said.

He wants property taxes to go down, and home values must increase in order to make that happen, he explained

“If you have more people wanting to move here than wanting to leave, if you can do that, we can maintain a high residential tax base,” Fotovich said. “Hopefully someone comes here and builds the next Google, but I don’t think we should pin our hopes on that.”

Pugh said when the recession ends, property values will increase.

“There are going to be issues with managing the growth and the traffic,” he said.

Unmacht expects the hiring process to take between 90 and 120 days. One challenge, he said the city may face in finding applicants is the salary range for the position.

Currently, the range is $78,000 to $110,000. Many applicants might expect to start at the top of that range.

Council members did not reach a consensus on whether to move the scale higher, in part, because they didn’t want to move that scale without having a discussion about raising other city salaries. They will discuss the item during a work session on April 25.


  1. GardnerPride says:

    I think it will be very difficult to find someone from a larger community to come to Gardner for the job. Larger city means larger salary, and we aren’t in a position to compete on that level.

    On another note, what does it say about the inflated paybase in our country when a salary range topping at $110K might be seen as a liability in the hiring process.

    Personally, I think they should look for a candidate with school aged children willing to move within the district. I believe this type of individual will carry a more vested interest in the city as a whole, and not simply working to boost his resume by taking the Gardner job for 3 years until another larger city comes calling. Equal Opportunity Policies may make it difficult/improper to ask these sort of questions, but I think they are valid none the less.

  2. I sent an e-mail to the Council and requested they NOT choose Springsted as the company to do the recruiting for a city mgr. So who do they choose???? Springsted, of course – Drovetta has always used that company because they will do whatever he tells them to do – no independent report, no intellegent recommendations, no information on what the market is, nada, nothing. They just come here and ask the Council what do they want and how much do you want to pay. Don’t you think they could provide some guidance for the lovely fee we are paying them???? You might as well do the job yourself for what Springsted is doing it appears. What the Sam Hill did we do before we had consultants, design firms, the Kutak Rocks, the Nunnicks???? I tell you what we did – we had more accountability at a lower cost I believe in a lot of instances and less rubber stamp government. It seems to me the elected officials and the bureaucrats want the high salaries, the very best benefits and then call in a consultant or an outside firm to do their work for them so they won’t be held accountable and responsible and it would sure cut down on the work they do and they can blame some other entity if things don’t go well. You can only pass the buck so far.

  3. Hell Just Froze says:

    I think I agree with Gardner Pride.

  4. One thing for darn sure – You won’t be able to bring in a city administrator for less than the highest salary paid to a present city employee. If it were me, I would be wanting $10,000 to $20,000 more than that highest paid city employee and I don’t care how long that person had been here and you will probably be doing well to get the job done at that.

    What is more important to me is what I am going to get for the money I will have to pay for a city administrator. He/she better have some strong moral values such as honesty, ethics, integrity, character, etc. or I don’t even want that person coming here.

  5. Carol Peterson says:

    i agree with gardner pride. we need a person who has been married and is raising a family. someone who believes in gardner and what a great place it is to raise children. we need a mentor with a proven track record. someone who has been in a city that has grown and has been successful in leading that city to greatness. what we don’t need is someone who wants to pad their resume – someone who moves reluctantly to gardner ‘because they HAVE to’. we need someone who can make a difference; not the same old, same old. that is not working. A free thinker who can respectfully not agree with the mayor.

  6. Having the ideal candidate be someone who is ‘married and raising a family’ is discrimination. Although I agree with someone looking at the city from that perspective – we don’t need a lawsuit against the city because they chose a model person based on their marital status, AGE (discrimination), etc.

  7. Carol Peterson says:

    True. I just meant someone who was interested in the communitiy from a family viewpoint. gardner has always been a family friendly town and it would be nice to keep it that way. sorry for the misstatement.

  8. GardnerPride says:

    I think it’s splitting hairs, but I believe that RESTRICTING a candidate who isn’t married and raising a family from applying and being considered is against the law. With all other things being equal, and all having the opportunity to apply, the Council would be within their rights to select the person who fits those traits.

  9. I believe all citizens need to look at the salaries being provided right now to city employees and in my opinion you will find discrimination, loud and clear. Another indicator of cronyism government. It is amazing how this type of government/management comes back to bite the wrongdoers in the rear end (but also adversely affecting the citizen/taxpayer) and in so many ways.

  10. GardnerPride says:

    That’s a very bold statement Judith, one I’ve not heard from any other source. Do you care to share any specific examples, or is this just another biased blanket statement against the City Government in Gardner.

  11. My opinion is based on looking at salaries and responsibilities for different positions. I have seen and experienced discrimination in pay my whole life and it is still going on.

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