Originally Published: August 6, 2016 6:28 a.m.
PRESCOTT – Four men, all with experience managing cities and counties around the country, now make up the finalist pool for the position of Prescott City Manager.
The Prescott City Council conducted a special meeting Friday morning, Aug. 5, to discuss the ongoing search for a new city manager to replace outgoing manager Craig McConnell.
While most of the discussion occurred during a 45-minute closed-door executive session, the council conducted a brief public session afterward and announced the names of the finalists.
Three are currently managing cities ranging in size from 5,100 to 21,400 population, while one is the manager of an 18,000-population county.
They are: William Stephens, city manager in Benson, Arizona; Gary Edwards, city administrator in Sedalia, Missouri; Jeffrey Cantrell, city manager in Chanute, Kansas; and Michael Lamar, county manager of Morgan County, Georgia.
The finalists were recommended to the City Council by an ad hoc selection committee, which conducted digital Skype interviews with the nine semi-finalists during executive sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 2 and 3.
Friday’s meeting was scheduled by the city Wednesday afternoon, after the committee made its recommendations, and amended Thursday morning.
The four finalists remain from the original field of 58 applicants. Early on, the city’s human resources department screened the field to 20 of the most qualified, and the ad hoc selection committee later narrowed that number to the nine semi-finalists.
Work experience played a crucial role in the screening process, Prescott HR Director Mary Jacobsen said.
While the field of 20 qualified applicants included two female applicants, Jacobsen said the nine semi-finalists were all male.
“It came down to experience; the ones with the most experience rose to the top,” Jacobsen said, adding, “There was a clear consensus (among the selection committee members).”
Mayor Harry Oberg said after Friday’s meeting that from what he had heard from the selection committee, the four finalists represented the “cream of the crop” among the applicants.
Along with accepting the selection committee’s finalist recommendations Friday, the council also authorized the city’s HR department to set up in-person interviews with the four finalists.
Oberg said the interviews likely would occur on Aug. 18 and 19, and would involve closed-door interviews with the council members, and no public interviews.
While Jacobsen said her department was still refining the process Friday, she said the two-day interview schedule is expected to include tours of the community, and possibly, a public reception for the four finalists.
“It’s a fluid process,” she said, pointing out that the council could opt to ask some or all of the finalists in for second executive-session interviews on Aug. 19.
Depending on the outcome, the council could opt to make an offer to one of the finalists that day, she said, or choose to take longer to make a decision.
The city will pay traveling expenses for the finalists and their spouses, Jacobsen said, adding that she was uncertain this week of the total cost.
Typically, Jacobsen said, it takes about two months after the interview process to have a new city manager on board. “It will be at least October,” she estimated of the timeframe.
Meanwhile, McConnell, who resigned in May, has agreed to stay on during the selection and transition process.