Danedri Thompson
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Gardner may have a new leader soon.
Gardner City Council members, with the help of a citizens group and a committee of city staff, interviewed three finalists for the city administrator job on Aug. 22.
If all goes well, Mayor Dave Drovetta hopes the council will appoint a candidate as early as Sept. 6, who will be able to take the reins at city hall in early October.
“I don’t know if that’s doable, but that’s the goal,” Drovetta said before an interview session on Monday evening. “It’s difficult to tell. We speak to the finalists tonight and what comes from that – there could be a desire for further interviews. If we get there tonight, great. “
Three groups interviewed three candidates to replace former city administrator Stewart Fairburn. Fairburn headed city operations for 10 years before accepting a similar position in Chickasha, Okla., last March.
Each interview group – the council, a staff committee, and a citizens committee – will spend an hour with each candidate. At the end of the evening, committee members will make recommendations to the Mayor at the end of the night.
Steve Shute, a Gardner resident who will sit on the citizen committee, said he hopes to ask the candidates what they think the optimal size of city staff should be to handle basic roles of the city.
“I’d like to know what their philosophy is regarding the size of local government.  Give me some examples where efficiencies in your last job,” Shute said. “If they had to pick three services that a city must provide, what would they be? I want to know what their ideas of essential services are.”
Because all committees will write questions that will be given to a moderator for questioning in the interview sessions, Shute said he doesn’t know if candidates will get to answer all of his questions.
At the end of the night, all committee members will have a chance to discuss their thoughts on the candidates with council members.
Drovetta said it will be good to have a new leader at the city’s helm in the near future.  The hole in the top spot has meant additional responsibilities for city staff.
“Any time you reduce staff, you’re putting those responsibilities on others and that creates some challenges,” Drovetta said. “I think the rest of the staff and (interim-city administrator) Melissa (Mundt) in particular have done a spectacular job in working us through this budget season and keeping us going. Everyone stepped us and helped get us through.”
Gardner ordinances specify that the Mayor appoints a city administrator with the approval of the council, and Drovetta hopes to announce new city leadership soon.
“I’m confident this process will identify someone that will take us to the next level,” he said.