Five men with experience as high-level city administrators have been named finalists in Columbia’s search to find a replacement for City Manager Ray Beck.
Mayor Darwin Hindman released the names of the finalists at a news conference this morning. They are Norton Bonaparte Jr. of Plainsfield, N.J.; Stephen Rasmussen of Ottumwa, Iowa; Larry Stevens of Edmond, Okla.; Sean R. Stegall of Elgin, Ill., and Bill Watkins, an assistant city manager in Columbia.
Hindman told reporters in the Columbia City Council chambers that the process for selecting the city manager will be as open as possible. The public can submit questions for a televised community forum to be held Friday afternoon and can offer feedback to the council through next week. The finalists were chosen from a pool of 73 candidates from 24 states. The city hired the PAR Group, a consulting company from Lake Bluff that specializes in local government, to help solicit candidates, then to narrow the list to 12. The council then chose seven finalists; two withdrew their names.
“A city manager needs management and finacial skills as well as an ability to work well with the public,” Hindman said, explaining the qualities the council would like to see in its new manager.
The candidates face a challenging weekend of interviews and meetings with the council, city department heads and the public. They will arrive Friday morning and hold a series of individual news conferences from 1 to 3:30 p.m. in the Daniel Boone Building’s mezzanine conference room. A community forum will follow immediately, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., in the council chambers. At the forum, moderators Rod Gelatt and Jo Sapp will ask the candidates questions chosen from a pool of queries sent in by residents.
Over the weekend, the council will hold closed sessions with the candidates. Hindman said a decision could be reached as early as Nov. 17, but he would not set a definite date for a decision.
Beck has set a tentative retirement date of Jan. 6, but Hindman said Beck would stay on as long as necessary.
All the candidates are employed as city managers, city administrators or assistant city managers. When asked if they wanted a candidate who would meet or come near Beck’s 20-year run, Hindman noted that the average city manager staysin one place only about five or six years.
Hindman ended the news conference by urging the public to become involved in the process.
“We try and do the kinds of things the public wants to do,” said Hindman.