COLUMBIA — Demeanor, management style and experience were the factors that led the Columbia City Council to hire Mike Matthes as Columbia’s next city manager. He was one of four candidates for the job.
“Matthes is very smart, with a calm demeanor — almost a (Bill) Watkins-like demeanor — and he knows how to manage people,” Mayor Bob McDavid said after a news conference Monday evening, during which McDavid announced Matthes as the accepted candidate.
Matthes, 42, was the assistant city manager and chief information officer in Des Moines, Iowa, before being selected to replace Bill Watkins as Columbia’s city manager. Matthes will start May 1.
“It’s a big loss for the city,” said Des Moines City Council member Christine Hensley. “I figured it was a matter of time before another city snapped him up, and Columbia is very fortunate to get him.”
Columbia council members seem to agree — Matthes was picked by a unanimous vote Sunday.
“It was difficult to choose from this group,” Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said. “All were superior candidates, but Matthes stood out above the rest.”
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe agreed.
“He’s smooth and deliberate and takes time to analyze things. He’s extremely ethical and extremely transparent,” Hoppe said.
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said Matthes was the best fit for Columbia.
"He wants to be here as much as we want him here,” Thornhill said.
During the selection process, the council focused on each candidate’s management style. At one point, each candidate was asked to give a 10-minute presentation to demonstrate how well they were able to command a room.
“Everybody has a different management style, and Matthes was able to articulate his very well,” McDavid said.
Matthes described his management style as being based on servant leadership.
“Fundamentally, it means hiring the best people you can find, defining a clear goal, and letting them get there and not micromanaging or backseat driving,” Matthes said.
McDavid described Matthes as performance-driven and genuine. He said that Matthes judges more on performance than personality and “will be demanding in a new way."
“You’ll all enjoy him as much as we did,” Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley said.
Matthes will be paid $150,000 per year, plus health benefits and a car allowance. This is slightly less than what Bill Watkins received, which was $154,000 per year. Matthes earned $135,000 at his position in Des Moines.
Matthes said he was impressed with the other candidates and said he thinks he was chosen because he was the right fit for the city at this time.
“I’m at a point in my career that matches well with where the council wants to move the city government,” he said.