A Billings City Council subcommittee is arranging opportunities for public input for selecting the new city administrator.
The council will meet mostly behind closed doors Oct. 30 with The Mercer Group Inc. of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the executive search firm assisting with finding the successor to Tina Volek, who retired Sept. 30 after 12 years as city administrator.
To date, about three dozen people have applied for the job.
“We are going to lose some good candidates,” Councilman Dick Clark said, “if their names are out there.”
Under the present schedule as discussed by Council members Clark, Larry Brewster and Angela Cimmino as well as Mayor Tom Hanel, the council will announce publicly the names of about five finalists. Brooks and Dahl recommend that council deliberations over the merits of those finalists be done in public.
The Mercer Group will advise the finalists that their names and current positions will be made public on Oct. 30.
The out-of-town finalists will journey to Billings for a two-day vetting process Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 that is mostly open to the public.
A public forum will be held during the evening of Nov. 29 or Nov. 30, depending on the finalists’ schedules.
The council will interview each of the finalists in open session. Department heads and the media will also have time with each of them.
The council will hold a special meeting Dec. 1 to begin their deliberations on the finalists. It’s possible the council could go into closed session that evening if some new information or sensitive material surfaces concerning one or more of the finalists.
The Dec. 1 meeting will include a public comment period before the council makes its selection.
Tom Zurbuchen, a member of a citizens’ committee that’s also advising the council, said he wants the group to have the opportunity to also interview the finalists. “We don’t have a say,” he said, “but the public needs to know what’s going on. Without interviewing, we have no way to tell the public what we’re seeing.”
But the citizens’ group “has already fulfilled that role,” Brewster said, by helping the council tell The Mercer Group about which qualities the council is looking for in the new administrator. “The City Council is a public committee too.”
The Dec. 1 outcome will be one of the most important decisions the council will be called on to make, Brewster acknowledged.
“The city administrator impacts a lot more than just (the council),” Brewster said. “They have a broad reach.”