Council narrows selection to three hiring firms in city manager search

Monday, November 1, 2010 | 8:52 p.m. CDT; updated 9:30 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, November 2, 2010

* The three agencies the city invited back for interviews were Mercer Group, Affion Public and Neher & Associates. An earlier version of this article misidentified two of the agencies.

COLUMBIA – At the pre-council meeting Monday, the Columbia City Council chose three executive hiring firms for further interviews as part of the process for the city manager search.

After five years in the position, City Manager Bill Watkins announced his resignation in October, citing personal reasons for the decision.

The council had the chance to look over applications from eight firms, and members chose the following three to come to Columbia for presentations: Mercer Group, *Affion Public and Neher & Associates.

Representatives for the firms will come to a public work session at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Daniel Boone City Building and will each have 50 minutes to give a presentation and answer questions.

Mayor Bob McDavid said the council needs to look beyond the "slick brochure" when choosing a firm and look into the backgrounds of past candidates hired by the firms.

City Manager Bill Watkins agreed with McDavid and suggested considering the types of cities these firms work in as well. He didn't think that a firm on the West Coast, used to hiring for companies there, would be suitable for a Midwest city like Columbia.

Both McDavid and Watkins stressed the need for the city to do its homework in choosing a firm. Watkins suggested that someone involved with city government work with the chosen firm during the search and investigate candidates more in depth.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser suggested that Watkins prepare a list of new and ongoing projects that the new candidate must be willing to accept.

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