City Hall admin

The schedule for the four candidates vying to become Billings' next city administrator was announced Monday.

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

City managers in Helena and Great Falls are among the five finalists announced Monday for Billings’ vacant city administrator position.

After meeting in closed session for 2½ hours, the Billings City Council voted 10-0, with Councilman Ryan Sullivan absent, to interview these five finalists during public sessions Nov. 30 and Dec.1:

  • Ron Alles, Helena city manager the past eight years. In his cover letter, Alles said that during that time he’s “communicated a vision and worked toward public policy that learns from and corrects past policy failures and provides a framework that will enhance our community’s future.” He said he’s demonstrated an ability “to build teams, lead, manage, maintain and experience cooperative relationships” with city and county officials, employees, other agencies and the general public.
  • Greg Doyon, Great Falls city manager since March 2008. Doyon said when he began work there, the city “was embroiled in a failed public power initiative. As we untangled the community from this policy debacle, the organization experienced an almost complete turnover in the department leadership team. As Great Falls regained its footing from these events, it began to experience a more robust growth cycle that is presently challenging department resources, processes and capabilities.”
  • David Fraser, city manager in Boulder City, Nevada, since 2013. Fraser said he emphasizes “building a high performance, customer-friendly organization” in part by “encouraging individuals to think for themselves and to act within approved parameters.” He said he can “interact effectively with people from a wide range of backgrounds" as well as "work effectively with staff, policy makers, the public and the media.”
  • Jeff Mihelich, the deputy city manager and chief operating officer in Fort Collins, Colorado. He said it’s his job to manage all city operations and facilitate coordination across city departments. “Fort Collins is a complex, high performing, full service municipality that has key community challenges and opportunities that are very similar to those in Billings,” he said. He said his areas of expertise include growth management, economic development, equity and inclusivity, innovation, affordable housing, citizen engagement, performance excellence, climate action, private-public partnerships, homelessness and university relations.
  • Kevin Smith, general manager of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District near Truckee, California, the past seven years and a former deputy city manager in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, south of Salt Lake City. He said his wife is a proud Skyview High School graduate. “We have many diverse connections to the state, and we want to raise our kids in Billings,” he said. One reference said he “has orchestrated the development of our 10 year master plan like a maestro conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.”

Council members worked with their consultant, James L. Mercer, to evaluate 38 applicants to succeed Tina Volek, Billings’ longest-serving administrator, who retired Sept. 30. Two women received consideration, Councilman Larry Brewster said following Monday’s special session.

Mercer will conduct background checks on the five finalists before they’re invited to Billings for a series of forums, including a meet-and-greet with the public and their interviews with the council Dec. 1.

Council members have indicated they will make their selection Dec. 1, with the new administrator probably beginning work after Jan. 1, 2018.

“All five finalists have interesting experience, enough to demonstrate they would be capable administrators in a city our size,” Bewster said.

Mayor Tom Hanel thanked Mercer for his efforts, “knowing that we still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I think these five finalists are a very good selection.”

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.