TO:                  Town Council


FROM:            Kevin Foy, Mayor


SUBJECT:      Consideration of Process for the Selection of Town Manager


DATE:            March 6, 2006





At the February 27, 2006 Business Meeting, we discussed potential processes in a search for Town Manager.


At that meeting, we identified six key actions necessary for the initiation of the process:

  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


Additionally, the issue of confidentiality was highlighted as an important and difficult question.


At the February 27, 2006 Business Meeting, the Council agreed on several of these actions:

  1. The Council agreed that the search should be a national one, should use ‘mainstream recruitment tools’ such as advertisements in professional newsletters, and should not identify individual recruits and target them.
  2. The Council agreed that the search committee should consist of four Council Members.  Council Members will indicate their interest to the Mayor.
  3. The Council agreed to use a combination of internal and external staff support.
  4. The Council agreed to a process for the Search committee: a) set a schedule; b) establish a candidate profile with as much input as possible; c) develop a process to recruit candidates; d) engage support staff; and e) follow a process to bring finalist candidates to the Council.


The Council must still determine at what point candidates’ names will become public.


This week, the Mayor’s Office solicited advice from other sources on this issue. 


Mr. Hartwell Wright, a Human Resources consultant with the North Carolina League of Municipalities, offered the following advice:


From a legal perspective, the entire list of candidates can be confidential.  The only information that, legally, needs to be made public is the new manager’s name and salary at the time of hiring.


Mr. Wright’s personal opinion is that if the Council chooses to make applicants publicly known, it could possibly deter applicants from municipal governments in North Carolina.


Mr. Wright also advises that most municipalities in North Carolina – including large cities – have a closed, confidential selection.  Some larger cities choose to make the final candidates public.  If the Council would like to do so, applicants should know this at the beginning of the entire process.


He advises that, should the Council choose to keep applicant names in confidence, that it attempt to keep the public and press as apprised of the process as possible by letting them know what is going on as specifically as possible without discussing any individuals or their characteristics – so, for example, the number of applicants being considered, important dates, etc.


On another issue, Mr. Wright advises that many larger municipalities choose to use an executive recruiter to manage the process, as it tends to be very time-consuming.


Anita W. Badrock, Vice-President, Smither and Associates personnel services offered the following advice:


“I would recommend a confidential search.  I think it changes the nature of the search and the candidate pool quite a lot depending on whether the search is open or closed to public scrutiny. 


“I recognize that we have a culture of openness in our community that the Council wants to respect, but I believe the citizens would understand and be better served by a process that would allow the best qualified candidates to confidentially explore this career opportunity to the maximum extent possible.  Many of the most highly qualified applicants are probably the kind of professionals that aren't unhappy with where they are currently, but are excited and intrigued about the possibilities and opportunities that exist in Chapel Hill.  That's the type of person that probably would not want his/her current employer to know (s)he's looking.  


“When we did the search for the Downtown Partnership, all but one of the finalists was adamant about maintaining confidentiality, because they felt it would compromise their effectiveness in their current communities if it became public that they were interviewing for the position and then were not selected.   


“We all know that exploring another professional opportunity does not necessarily mean that a person isn't fully committed to his current position, but that person's staff, his Council, and his community might feel differently.


“UNC recently hired Erskine Bowles through a confidential search process.  I have heard unconfirmed reports that the final candidate pool included some very recognizable names from nationally renowned universities.  I don't think those candidates would have explored the option had their names been public early in the process.  There's just too much of a ripple effect when someone at that level even sneezes, much less contemplates leaving!


“The composition of the search committee will make a huge difference as to the public's comfort with the process.  Additionally, you can make the structure of the process and the evaluative criteria to be used public without making the candidates public.”  


Included in the attachments are additional materials from the University regarding confidentiality and a search committee code of conduct that it uses in high-profile employment searches.




February 27, 2006 Business Meeting

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 to 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 I 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.


I suggest that the Council this evening 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 6th.


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 HR 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 ten 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 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. 7)
  2. ICMA Newsletter with some samples of advertisements (p. 15)
  3. UNC-CH Guidelines for Confidentiality in Employment Searching (p. 19)
  4. UNC-CH Guidelines for Employment Search Committees (p. 20)
  5. Letters from citizens (p. 21)