Juneau Assembly narrows manager search

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly has decided on the finalists for the city manager job, but the public will have to wait to find out who’s on the list.

After deliberating in closed door executive session for more than an hour and a half last night (Monday), the Assembly Committee of the Whole pared down the 25 applicants for the position to a shortlist.

Deputy Mayor David Stone says the assembly will announce who is on the list once all the applicants have been notified.

“We’ve got to talk to the candidates that we have basically decided are not on the shortlist. Then we’ve got to talk to the ones on the shortlist and see if they’re still interested, and then we’ll know and we will then make an announcement,” Stone said. “So, we’re being a little bit vague at this point, because if we say something publicly, then it turns out, well, somebody has withdrawn, it makes it more difficult.”

Stone did say there was some mild disappointment amongst assembly members at the lack of in-state candidates. In fact, Stone said there were two qualities that set the short list finalists apart from the rest.

“Very capable and Alaskan experience,” he said.

Current City Manager Rod Swope is retiring at the end of March. The assembly hopes to hire his replacement by the end of January.

Members did discuss in open session the interview process for the city manager finalists.

Mayor Bruce Botelho said it should include visits with department heads, interviews with the assembly, and meetings with the public.

“I think we need to create the opportunity for the candidates to meet the public, for the public to be able to ask questions in a specific setting, and a chance for the public to be able to give us feedback,” Botelho said.

The candidates will also be asked to perform in a hypothetical situation or assignment they might face as manager. However, the process is likely to be less intense than the last city manager search three years ago, when Swope first tried to resign.

During those interviews, the finalists went through what’s called a full “assessment center,” which lasted two-and-a-half days.

“So, I think three or four exercises, an interview, and I think that gave them a lot of information,” said CBJ Human Resources Director Mila Cosgrove

For this search a three-member committee made up of assembly members Carlton Smith, Randy Wanamaker and Mary Becker will design one assignment for each candidate to perform.

Wanamaker says he’s less interested in how the finalists do in hypothetical situations, and more interested how they relate to the assembly, staff and public.

“When we used it the last time, I found it to be more time consuming than helpful. And that the better read from things came from the assembly itself speaking with the candidates, interviewing them, and then the public forum, where the public talked with them – all you had to do was listen,” Wanamaker said.

The interviews will likely take place in mid-January. The finalists will be announced via press release.

City Manager and City Attorney are the only two positions hired by the Assembly.