Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 14, 2013

Consultant to handle search for Traverse City manager

Mich. Municipal League hired to screen applications

BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com

TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners dismissed transparency in favor of expediency and will turn to a private consultant to handle most of the search for a new city manager.

Commissioners voiced their support this week for hiring the Michigan Municipal League to screen applications and protect candidates' confidentiality. The commission will review resume summaries from confidential candidates and won't see full resumes until they hold a private, closed meeting with their consultants.

"I personally would not want to see every single resume ... and have to do my own independent assessment," said city Commissioner Barbara Budros.

Mayor Michael Estes also said he doesn't want to review 100 resumes.

City Manager Ben Bifoss will retire June 28. He recommended using the municipal league for their expertise and to get a stronger pool of candidates. He expects about half of all applicants to request confidentiality.

Commissioner Jody Bergman said she found "huge value" when looking at the 60-plus resumes submitted when the board hired Bifoss in 2008.

She also warned the commission it will have to be careful when putting together it's minimum requirements so the consultant doesn't screen out legitimate candidates. Bergman noted city attorney Lauren Trible-Laught fell short in one of the city's minimum requirements, but the commission still decided on her as its best candidate.

"I'm a little hesitant about what we won't see," Bergman said.

Jeanine Easterday objected to a commission-led search process.

"We lose candidates concerned about confidentiality," she said.

The public won't know the identities of applicants until the commission announces the finalists who have agreed to be interviewed.

Estes shrugged when asked about sacrificing transparency in the search process.

"I was happy with what we did when we hired Ben ... but I want to have someone hired before Ben leaves," Estes said.

Bifoss will present a contract to retain the municipal league at the commission's Feb. 18 meeting.