Manager interviews proceed
September 25, 2009
The search for the first Summit County manager entered a new phase this week as a selection committee privately interviewed two more applicants for the position. Several finalists already selected by the citizen panel were previously rejected by the County Council.
The manager will oversee the county’s day-to-day operations. But the selection committee tasked with picking the best applicants has not yet chosen a candidate that meets the County Council’s high expectations.
"It’s frustrating," Summit County Councilwoman Claudia McMullin said. "This is a frustrating process."
The form of government in the county changed this year from the three-person Summit County Commission to the five-member council/manager model. The manager will oversee the executive branch of the reorganized County Courthouse.
While the manager will serve at the will of the County Council, removing somebody from the influential post could be complicated if elected officials make the wrong choice, said Brian Bellamy, who is acting as county manager until his replacement is named.
Bellamy did not apply for the permanent job.
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Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in public administration or a related field and at least five years of experience working in city or county government. A nationwide search for applicants was conducted for the job, which may have an annual salary of more than $130,000.
"I look for a good manager of people," McMullin said about what she hopes to find in an applicant. "For me, the most important thing is dealing with the different constituencies out there, the employees at the county, the elected officials, the public and the cities."
"People skills" are critical, she added.
"You have to be able to lead, inspire and not alienate. It’s a very difficult thing for any human to do," McMullin said.
Guidelines for the new form of government require the selection committee to forward three finalists at a time for review by the Summit County Council, which makes the final decision.
Within two weeks, McMullin said she expects to see the second pool of finalists.
Meanwhile, Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson said the process for selecting a county manager is too cumbersome.
"They have gone to such a length to depoliticize the selection of a manager that I think the pendulum has gone too far," Robinson said.
Rules that keep the selection committee separate from the County Council have made the process too deliberate, he explained.
"There is some wisdom in having slow processes so that rash decisions don’t get made," Robinson said. "But you can go too far."
Neither Robinson nor McMullin would discuss applicants the County Council has rejected. The screening process has put finalists through extensive background checks.
Summit County has more than 300 employees. About 134 people applied for the manager position.
"It’s an important decision and the council wants to be as unanimously excited and enthusiastic about it as we can be," Robinson said. "We want to be very careful because it is so hard to start this process over."
Summit County Councilman David Ure said he had expected to hire a county manager before now.
"I think we’re proceeding as fast as we can," Ure said. "But I thought we would have one in place by now."