Tucson City Council signals a patient, national search for manager

2014-06-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-13T15:50:22Z Tucson City Council signals a patient, national search for managerBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Take your time and cast a wide net.

That’s the mantra a majority of the council has adopted when it sets course on finding a new city manager on Tuesday.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the council will discuss the broad outlines of how it wants to pursue a search for a new city manager.

“It will relate to do we want a national search or local candidate. If it’s national, should we hire an outside firm to conduct it, and possibly discuss the qualities we want in a new manager,” Rothschild said.

Rothschild favors looking outside the city. “I think we have good local candidates and have a solid management team,” Rothschild said. “But I want to conduct a national search, and take a look at what the world has to offer.”

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich supports the move and believes the city will have to turn to an outside firm to conduct it since the city’s human resources staff will have its hands full this year with union contract negotiations.

She said she’ll be looking for a candidate with experience working with a diverse population and can direct the city through its continued restructuring.

“We’ve been consolidating and there’s been lots of change,” Uhlich said. “Ideally, we’d have somebody who’s been effective in managing change and reorganization.”

The city has rushed through the hiring process for the past several managers, Uhlich said. And that’s something she wants to avoid.

“It’s one of the most important decisions we will be making for years to come so I think it is important we take our time and have a good, deliberate process,” she said.

And that means the council will probably have to appoint an interim city manager this summer. Miranda retires July 31.

While the appointment is likely inevitable, Rothschild doesn’t want it to hinder the hiring process.

He said ideal candidates would already be top-level executives in another city. Those folks would hesitate to apply if they think the job process is just a pretext to hand over the position to whoever filled the interim spot, he said.

Councilman Paul Cunningham concurs. “The heir apparent cannot be in the job already,” he said.

To prevent this, Cunningham will suggest the council adopt a stipulation that any interim city manager must not be eligible for the job.

Cunnighham won’t have to worry about Councilman Steve Kozachik thwarting his motion.

“I’m going to be very public in telegraphing my vote that I will not vote in favor of promoting any current city employee to become our new city manager,” Kozachik said. “That’s not a slap at anybody’s credentials. It simply reflects my belief that we’ll benefit from bringing in some new blood with some fresh perspectives and somebody who hasn’t got any existing alliances within the city hierarchy.”

Kozachik said he would like a charter change requiring a supermajority vote on the council to oust a manager. He said it would attract higher-caliber talent to apply.

“We’d get better candidates, and once in the position the city manager would be more inclined to dig in and tell us what we need to hear, and not what he or she thinks we want to hear,” Kozachik said.

A charter change might no be necessary since technically a super-majority vote already exists.

Under the charter, the mayor can cast a vote to hire a city manager, said City Attorney Mike Rankin. But the mayor can’t vote to fire him or her. That means at least four of the six council members must be on board if they want to dump someone.

Rankin said he didn’t know when or why the provision was included in the charter.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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