Seeking a new manager

February 8, 2011

As we reported, Town Manager Susan George has announced her plans to retire next January, so the hunt is on for a replacement Town Manager. On February 1st, the Town COWncil held a special meeting to discuss and approve a recruitment schedule for this important position, authorize a request for proposals (RFP) from executive search firms, and to appoint an ad hoc committee of COWncil members to select a search firm.

The meeting was short – just fifteen minutes – and Council members Peter Mason and Dave Burow were absent. Only two members of the public were present but neither spoke to the COWncil during the meeting. The Almanac did not bother to send a reporter.

The RFP went out to 12 executive search firms who’ve done similar work for other Towns. The description of what the search firm is responsible for has 14 items. Some of the more interesting ones suggest that the Town may appoint a citizens advisory committee for the process, that the Town wants the search firm to review the current Town Manager compensation package and recommend possible changes “based upon market and competitive conditions,” assist in negotiating with potential candidates, and to schedule psychological assessments of candidates. Questions from executive search firms will be posted along with the answers from the Town on Woodside’s website by February 16th.

After approving the schedule and the RFP, the Town COWncil tried to round up three people to sit on the ad hoc committee. Susan George said that in the two weeks allotted, two or three meetings minimum would be required to sort through the proposals, depending on how many firms responded. Due to open meeting laws, only three members of the COWncil can sit on the committee, and while other COWncil members can see the proposals that come in, they can’t communicate to the committee any preferences they might have, and if they tell the Town Manager, she can’t tell committee members.

With Burow and Mason absent from the special meeting, there were only five COWncilmembers to choose from. COWncilmember Gordon got out ahead by suggesting that Mayor Romines and Mayor Pro Tem Tanner “and one of you two” (COWncilmembers Boynton and Kasten) serve as the committee, as Gordon was unable to do it because she was traveling. Boynton chimed in to say she would be traveling during that two week period as well. All eyes then focused on Kasten, who expressed some reluctance and wanted to ‘horse-trade’ getting off another committee (the CHC, which she has been unable to attend regularly) in exchange for doing it. Mayor Romines apologized for not having gotten a replacement for her for that committee yet, and reminded her that she had expressed interest in being involved with the executive search process. After some more hemming and hawing she agreed to do it pending checking her schedule.

We were surprised by the short turn around time allotted to the RFP process. Choosing the right head hunter can make all the difference in the quality of the search. We were very surprised by the reticence to serve on the committee. As we all know, the Town Manager has an enormous impact directly and indirectly on the quality of life in Woodside. Choosing the Town Manager may be the COWncil’s most important responsibility. We hope the COWncil conducts an open, transparent, with adequate input from our COWmunityand the new Town Manager is very carefully chosen.

The recruitment schedule below runs from now until the middle of January 2012, when it is hoped that a new Town Manager will start.

The approved schedule is as follows:
• February 2nd, 2011: RFP issued
• February 18th: Proposals Submission Deadline
• Between February 18th and March 3rd, the Ad Hoc COWncil
Subcommittee meets to winnow down the executive search firm candidates
• March 3rd: Special Town COWncil meeting to select search firm
• March 22nd: Public Meeting for the Citizens of our Town to comment
on ‘Community Values and Desired Traits’
• April 4th: Closed COWncil meeting on the search process
• April 12th: Town COWncil meeting to approve recruitment
• August 12th: Deadline for applications for Town Manager position
• Week of September 26th: Town COWncil Closed Sessions
Interviewing and selecting final Town Manager candidates
• October 3rd – December 9th: Background and referenced checks,
offer of employment, and negotiation of employment contract
• December 13th: Town COWncil meeting announcing appointment
and approving employment agreement
• January 2012: New Town Manager starts work

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