AGENDA #12.1




TO:                  Town Council


FROM:            Kevin Foy, Mayor


SUBJECT:      Consideration of Process for the Selection of Town Manager


DATE:            February 27, 2006



As you know, our Town Manager, Cal Horton, plans to retire on September 1, 2006. Cal has been the Manager since 1990, which means that the Council has not engaged in a process for hiring a manager since that time. I have therefore spoken with several people who have had recent experience in hiring senior level executives, including speaking with Carl W. Stenberg, Professor of Public Administration and Government at the UNC School of Government.


One thing that is clear from these discussions is that the Council should, as quickly as possible; establish a process for hiring a new manager. Although there are six months until Cal’s retirement, it is possible that potential manager applicants will be subject to an employment contract in their current position, which might require up to 90 days’ notice to the current employer.


Establishing a process requires the Council address, at a minimum, the following matters:


1)      Determine the scope of the search

2)      Identify a search committee

3)      Identify support staff for the search committee

4)      Delegate responsibilities to the search committee

5)      Determine when the full Council engages

6)      Determine when the public engages


In addition, there are other matters that the Council should consider. First, the Council should think about the salary range for this position, although a specific salary does not have to be decided at the outset. The position can be advertised as providing “competitive salary and benefits.” Second, the Council should consider whether to offer a contract to a new manager. Based on the information that I have received from the School of Government, a contractual arrangement is now customary, although the Council has not had a contract with Cal. The terms of a contract would provide for eventualities such as early termination by one party or the other, and would set forth the specifics of a benefit package.


I am attaching two items: Attachment 1 is an article by Kurt Jenne in Popular Government that discusses the hiring process. Attachment 2 is a copy of the ICMA Newsletter with some samples of advertisements for manager positions.


Tonight, I suggest that the Council discuss the options for a process to hire a new manager. The Council may wish to establish the process at this evening’s meeting. If not, however, then I recommend that we settle on a process no later than our meeting on March 6.


For discussion purposes, I have set forth below two possible approaches to the process. These can be modified, combined, etc., but they give us a basis on which to build a structure for the process.




1)      Scope of search: national

a.       This gets broadest cross-section of candidates

b.      Many people are already likely aware of this position

c.       There are many recruitment tools available for a national search, including ICMA newsletter


2)      Search committee: Council Members only

a.       Up to four members of Council

b.      Addresses need for confidentiality

                                                              i.      The better the assurance of confidentiality, the better the candidate pool

c.       Council authorizes the search committee to conduct the process with appropriate regard to the need candidates may have for confidentiality, and pursuant to North Carolina rules regarding open meetings.


3)      Staff support: combine outside support and limited internal support

a.       Total reliance on internal support may create difficulties for personnel

b.      Town Human Resources Department can help manage (e.g., online applications)

c.       Outside support staff can be neutral (e.g., in interviewing department heads and others when establishing a profile)


4)      Responsibilities of search committee

a.       Set a schedule

b.      Develop a profile for the prospective manager

                                                              i.      Interview all members of council (all interviews conducted by outside support staff)

                                                            ii.      Interview all department heads

                                                          iii.      Interview other parties as identified

                                                          iv.      Use the data from the interviews to put together a profile

c.       Develop a process to recruit candidates

                                                              i.      Advertising, etc.

                                                            ii.      Establish a rolling date for acceptance of applications

d.      Sort applications and determine the 30 that best fit the profile

                                                              i.      Outside staff sorts/committee chair or member reviews

                                                            ii.      Have search committee grade the top 30 based on profile

e.       Interview candidates

                                                              i.      Search committee interviews top 10 candidates (confidential interviews)

                                                            ii.      Search committee selects up to five finalist candidates


5)      Full Council steps in

a.       Council interviews each finalist separately

b.      Council establishes opportunity and structure for:

                                                              i.      Community to meet with all finalists

                                                            ii.      Town employees to meet with all finalists

                                                          iii.      Town department heads to meet with all finalists

c.       Council makes hiring decision and makes offer




1)      Scope of search: national

a.       Target the search (identify potential recruits)

b.      Also use mainstream recruitment tools (e.g., advertising)


2)      Search committee: varied

a.       For example: two Council Members, two department heads, and two other members of the community

b.      Council authorizes same confidentiality as outlined in Process #1


3)      Staff support: Town Human Resources Department

a.       Human Resources Department has necessary skills and knows the Town


4)      Responsibilities of search committee

a.       Set a schedule

b.      Focus on the challenges facing the Town, both externally and internally

c.       Get community involvement early

d.      Develop a profile of the manager position

                                                              i.      Establish focus groups

1.      Council Members

2.      Department heads

a.       also survey to identify strengths and weaknesses of current leadership climate

3.      Community and university leaders

                                                            ii.      Publish a website with questionnaire for public comment

1.      Provide hard copies available at library, etc.

2.      Publicize through local media; encourage public to respond

                                                          iii.      benchmark with leading Town Managers in North Carolina

e.       Human Resources Department screens applicants, determines top 30 by comparing with established profile

f.       Solicit from the top candidates a written exercise that requires them to detail how they would work on a critical challenge

g.      Search committee determines up to eight finalist candidates

h.      Finalist candidates are evaluated through “assessment center exercises,” which emphasize skill demonstration

                                                              i.      These exercises are designed based upon the core competencies identified in establishing the profile. For example:

1.      run a meeting with department heads to resolve a Town problem

2.      make a presentation to the Council on how the budget process should be structured

3.      Submit a written proposal for developing a town strategic plan

                                                            ii.      These exercises are evaluated by the search committee, in consultation with others they may choose


5)      Full Council steps in

a.       Council interviews the finalists identified in Step 4 above

b.      Department heads interview the finalists identified in Step 4 above

c.       Final candidates (up to three) are identified

                                                              i.      These finalists make a presentation about their vision for the Town and their execution strategies in public forums

d.      Council makes hiring decision and offer




  1. Article by Kurt Jenne in Popular Government that discusses the hiring process (p. 5).
  2. ICMA Newsletter with some samples of advertisements (p. 13).