TOLLAND – Voicing concerns and suggestions as the city searches for a new city manager, residents at a public forum Thursday evening made it known that they wanted someone who was willing to live in or near the city and who was apolitical.
The forum was held by the Town Hall in Town Hall and via Zoom. Residents were asked to provide their views on the research process to both the board and Doug Thomas, executive vice president of Texas-based Strategic Government Resources, who the board hired to conduct the research.
It’s the same company the city used when it ended up hiring Michael Rosen as general manager in 2019. After two years on the job, Rosen resigned in August to take a similar position in Norwood, MA. . Massachusetts. Former CFO Lisa Hancock has since served as interim CEO.
Thomas told the more than 40 residents in attendance at city hall and those watching via Zoom that his company appreciated the chance to work with the city again to help find a new general manager. He said his company enjoys meeting the communities it works with.
He also acknowledged that this was the second time in recent years that the cabinet had to assist the city in such a research.
âNormally our candidates stay longer,â he said, adding: âI’m sorry we’re here again.â
Residents expressed concern that the former city manager found by the company left so quickly.
âIt’s like the former city manager is a bit of a failure,â said resident Renie Besaw, who added, âIt’s difficult. Here we are again behind the wheelâ¦ it seems problematic.
Education Council member Christina Plourd echoed this concern, saying she wanted a city manager who would be willing to work with the council to find out what went wrong during the latest research.
Thomas explained to residents that the past two years have been unique due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that may have been a factor in Rosen’s decision to leave so quickly.
Residents also spoke about desired characteristics they want to see in the next CEO, such as a willingness to live in or near town. Rosen did not live in town when he was general manager.
âIf they’re not interested in moving, maybe we’re not interested in having them,â said resident Jon Crickmore, adding that if Rosen had lived in Tolland, âhis outing route might not have been possible. – not been so easy “.
Besaw also agreed that the next city manager should be a resident, saying, “I think it gives them some skin in the game and then they get to know people and have more connectivity.”
Thomas agreed that having a city manager as a resident can be beneficial, but also warned that having him as a requirement would reduce the number of applicants, as some may not be willing to relocate their families.
Many residents also said they did not want the next city manager to get involved in politics.
âThis person has to be non-partisan,â said resident Bob Rubino.
He added: “In my opinion the CEO is the most important person in the city, I hope his term is longer than that of any council or council majority.”
Rubino also said the next city manager should be emotionally intelligent, be a mentor to other city employees, and have regional reach and influence.
Resident Kate Howard Bender agreed.
âWe need someone who is going to be a champion of the city,â she said.
She added that she would like the next CEO to be concerned with both short-term and long-term planning.
âI feel like we need some fiscal oversight – they should put us on a debt diet,â Besaw said.
The idea was even floated by some residents to let Hancock keep the job permanently.
âIf it comes to that, she has my vote,â Crickmore said.
Thomas said the next steps in the search process will be to draft a draft advertisement for the position, which he says can be presented to the board towards the end of the month.
He added that from there it will probably take 90 days to find candidates. The company will advertise the position nationally and perform background checks.
The city pays the company a reduced rate of $ 21,900 to find the next general manager since it is a returning customer. The full cost would have been waived if Rosen had resigned within 18 months of taking office, said Michael Wilkinson, director of administrative services.
Rosen was the deputy general manager of Bedford, Massachusetts when the city hired him in 2019 to replace general manager Steven R. Werbner, who was retiring after 14 years.
Rosen started with an annual salary of $ 137,500, as well as a car allowance of $ 600 per month.