NORMAL — Normal residents shouldn't expect a quick resolution or by-the-minute updates on their next city manager.
“What we learned today was, 'We’re going to use every bit of the time that’s available to us,'” said council member Jeff Fritzen after a private meeting Friday to discuss the job. "It’s going to be a quiet period for several months.”
The town has until March with City Manager Mark Peterson, who announced Monday that he'll retire after reaching 30 years of service with the town.
The first step in finding a successor, Fritzen said, is creating a job description to be shared with potential candidates — including through the International City Manager's Association, which shares its job listings with the public.
"It's to say, 'Here’s the job as we see it,' and put it out into those places that are available to us. It’s kind of a unique thing in that you don’t post it on Monster.com. It’s a little different approach,” he said.
That includes consultation with Lyle Sumek of Lyle Sumek Associates, who attended Friday's meeting. The company helps local governments hire staff, train elected officials and do strategic planning, according to its website.
"He has a breadth of knowledge about municipal government that exceeds what we’re able to bring to the table as laypeople serving in an elected position," said Fritzen. "He’s not somebody who will conduct a search, but his expertise ... enables us to identify challenges."
Peterson said the town has an ongoing relationship with the company and will be billed for the work, but he didn't know how much it would cost.
Once the council narrows its list of candidates, the public may be in the dark until a finalist is chosen — unlike the open process by which Bloomington City Manager David Hales is interviewing for the same job in Topeka, Kan.
"It could serve as a deterrent to some candidates who think, 'I might be interested in that job, but I’m not that unhappy where I am, and I don’t feel free to investigate it unless I can keep my information private,'” Fritzen said. “It’s not going to become a beauty contest. We’re not going to bring the public in to pick their favorites. That’s not going to be beneficial."
Fritzen said the search will be broad, but he hesitated to call it nationwide.
“We’re open to all qualified applicants. But we won’t be out there trying to turn over rocks in every corner of the country,” he said. “We trust what we have in Normal will attract strong candidates wherever they’re located.”
On Monday, Fritzen said he hoped Peterson and his successor might work together for some period to provide continuity. He declined to comment on the possibility that Peterson's second-in-command, Pam Reece, might take the job, as Peterson did when he succeeded then-City Manager Dave Anderson in 1998.