Mark Taylor
The search for Gardner’s next city administrator is moving forward.
Mayor Dave Drovetta said he, the city’s human resource manager and a contracted recruiter are about to begin sifting through a stack of resumes and submitting a list of potential candidates to the city council.
Interviews are expected to get underway within the next few weeks and a new hire could be named by late summer.
“We’re looking forward to moving ahead on this,” Drovetta said. “We would like to get that role filled as quickly as possible.”
The council is looking to replace Stewart Fairburn who resigned earlier this year after 10 years of service to take a job in Oklahoma.
Assistant City Administrator Melissa Mundt has been serving as interim administrator.
Drovetta said Springstead Incorporated, the company hired by the city to recruit administrator candidates, has received 60 applications for the city’s top appointed position.
The job has a maximum salary of $110,000 plus benefits.
Drovetta said he, Springstead, and Human Resources Manager Mary Bush are meeting this week to review the applications and begin narrowing down the list of candidates.
“Then we will move into the process of identifying candidates for phone interviews and then narrow it down after that,” he said. “I would say within a few weeks we should be doing face-to-face interviews.”
The entire council will be involved in the interview process.
“I really do want all of the council members involved in this discussion,” Drovetta said.
Councilman Larry Fotovich said he was concerned about an e-mail he received from Drovetta asking individual council members whether they would support a $10,000 increase to the maximum salary for a particular candidate.
According to the e-mail, which Fotovich provided, a candidate who might be “the right fit” may be interested in the job but is currently compensated at a higher rate.
“It would appear that the mayor has more information than he wants to share,” Fotovich said. “For this reason I’ll be asking for the entire stack of resumes that were submitted to the recruiter. I knew this recruiter worked for Dave, not the citizens of Gardner.”
Councilman Chris Morrow said June 25 he had not been updated on the progress of the administrator search, nor the number of applications received.
But he said he hopes a new administrator will be named by the first week of September.
Morrow said he believes the successful candidate should have “not only the right experience, but a track record of proven results.”
“They should be steady, thoughtful, and principled, with solid management experience,” he said.  “They should have demonstrated excellence in budget management and innovative planning across a wide array of city departments.”
Morrow said he also wants an administrator who understands how to “proactively” attract and maintain sustainable residential, commercial and industrial development.
“Education is important,” he added, “but I don’t think we need to look exclusively at candidates with public administration degrees.”
Councilwoman Kristina Harrison said her ideal candidate would “have a balance of leadership experience in government and business.”
“I would like to someone who can bring a business world perspective to this position and look at running the city more like a corporation that is responsible for providing shareholders (residents) a return on their investments,” she said.
Harrison added that the new administrator should not be a micro-manager.
“I think that the employees that work for our city are experienced and know how to run their day-to-day operations,” she said. “…I want someone who can effectively manage at the macro level but can read key performance indicators and make a determination of when she or he should get involved in the daily operations.”
Drovetta said he believes the city’s next administrator should also be well-rounded.
“We are looking for an individual who is willing to be able to work with all the various groups within the community – residents, school district, business community, potential businesses and someone who can work well with council and be able to manage staff.  We are not looking for someone who is going to micro-manage, but someone who can direct staff in a way that moves us forward.”
The recruiting effort has been centered on the Midwest.
“We didn’t exclude anyone from (applying),” Drovetta said. “But we felt that based on our values and our experiences, we probably wanted someone from the Midwest region.”
Attempts to reach council members Brian Broxterman and Dennis Pugh for comment were unsuccessful at press time.