Vacant for one year: city manager candidates begin interviews

Austin City Council
Austin City Council (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the first time in more than one year, Austin city council will begin interviewing candidates for city manager. Former city manager Marc Ott announced in August of 2016 he would resign to take a job in Washington, D.C., and left his office at Austin City Hall on Oct. 30.

According to the search firm hired by the city, Russell Reynolds Associates, between six and nine candidates will interview Tuesday and Thursday at City Hall for the job. However, city officials will not disclose the names of the people interviewing. The search firm advised against that due to interviewees not wishing to put their current jobs in jeopardy. A city spokesman confirmed the interim city manager Elaine Hart told council she would not apply for the job and will resume her previous role as Chief Financial Officer once this position is filled.

While this search has now stretched more than one year, city officials still say they plan to have the new city manager hired by the end of this year.

“Hiring a city manager is going to be one of the most important things that this council does,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler says. “The city manager is the CEO of the city. For me, I’m looking for somebody who is a really strong manager, but also a visionary.”

In the meantime, 9 out of 55 department head positions remain vacant. Positions like Chief of Police, two Assistant City Manager jobs and the Director of Aviation can’t be hired until a city manager is selected. Other department heads have had to fill these jobs temporarily. For example, Sarah Hensley who runs Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department has become an interim Assistant City Manager.

Austin’s Mayor says once the new city manager is hired, that person will decide on a timeline for filling the vacant jobs. He calls the year-long process a reflection on the importance of this decision and cites the process of getting to Tuesday’s interviews as crucial.

“We engaged in an extensive community engagement process to help identify what it was we would be looking for in a city manager and then the consultant firm didn’t just take applications but target people who we would like to apply for the job,” Adler says.

Still, other major cities who have hired a city manager within the last five years have accomplished this process faster:

  • Charlotte, North Carolina: 8 months, 23 days
  • Fort Worth: 8 months, 4 days
  • Dallas: 6 months, 15 days
  • San Jose, California: 5 months, 21 days
  • Phoenix, Arizona: 5 months, 19 days

A representative with the search firm said after this week the number of candidates will be narrowed down and a second round of interviews with a smaller group will take place before Thanksgiving.

Kate Weidaw is LIVE from City Hall on KXAN with what steps are being taken today to further the search.

 

 

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