Consultant to gather opinions in search for Portland’s next city manager

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The firm hired by Portland to lead the search for a new city manager will be identifying and interviewing stakeholder groups in the next few weeks.

The city hopes to advertise the job immediately after the results of the November election.

At a Sept. 8 meeting, members of the city manager search subcommittee identified a list of potential stakeholder groups for Baker Tilly, the firm hired this summer.

Seal of the city of portlandThe work is complicated because on Nov. 8 voters will face a ballot question that could dramatically alter the city manager’s authority and job description. If approved, Mayor Kate Snyder said, the changes would make the subcommittee’s work “moot.”

However, Snyder said the panel wants to be ready to post the job immediately if the question, which is part of a slate of recommendations from the Charter Commission, is defeated.

The members of the subcommittee who were present – Snyder and Councilors Pious Ali and April Fournier – weighed in on stakeholders they think  Baker Tilly Director Art Davis and his team should potentially interview. 

They identified existing city staff; staff and administrators of Portland Public Schools and the local colleges; representatives of the immigrant community; service organizations such as Preble Street and Opportunity Alliance, who can address housing concerns; the business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, housing developers, and the cannabis community, and representatives of the city’s various faith communities.

Davis said input from stakeholders and the City Council is necessary to complete an accurate job description.

He said the kinds of things they will need from stakeholders are answers to what kind of experience they want in manager candidates, their approach to management and leadership, what the candidates see as the highest priorities for the city, what they plan to take on in their first year, and other such questions.

Davis said the best way to manage the stakeholder meetings is with half a dozen or so groups of between five to 12 people. He said some stakeholders could be combined into broader groups, such as combining Portland Public Schools with the colleges as a general education group.

He said his team will have to start soliciting input from stakeholders by the last week of September or the first week of October if they want to be ready to post the job by mid-November. They would have to finalize the job summary by mid-October to provide the subcommittee with final language to review.

The city will also likely post an online questionnaire for others who want to express their thoughts.

The subcommittee will next meet on Sept. 15.

City gets 6 proposals for police chief search firm

Portland received six proposals from consultants interested in being the search firm that will help the city recruit a new permanent police chief.

The position has been filled on an interim basis by Chief Heath Gorham since last November, when the former Chief Frank Clark unexpectedly resigned.

The proposals, which were opened on Sept. 7, were from:

  • BadgeQuest of Plymouth, Massachusetts, a public safety consulting firm specializing in recruitment of police and fire chiefs. Its fee estimate is $23,700.
  • Baker Tilly, a Chicago advisory, tax, and assurance firm with offices around the country, that was hired this summer to lead the city’s search for a new city manager. Baker Tilly estimated its consulting fee at $27,000.
  • GovHR, a recruitment and consulting firm in Northbrook, Illinois. Its fee estimate is $23,500.
  • Inclusion Maine, a recruitment and consulting firm based in Lewiston. Its total price is $80,000.
  • Municipal Resources, a consulting firm based in Plymouth, New Hampshire, with a fee of $34,250.
  • USPro, an employment agency based in Boston. Its estimated consulting cost is $28,750.

Under the existing City Charter, the appointment of a new police chief is the responsibility of the city manager, with approval by the City Council. That would leave the decision to the interim manager, Danielle West, the city’s top lawyer, who assumed the position last November when former City Manager Jon Jennings resigned.

West initially delayed hiring a new police chief because she believed it should be the responsibility of the permanent city manager. But given the delay the city has had in appointing a new manager, West decided in August to begin the process.

Finding a new manager has been delayed by the uncertainty surrounding changes in city government proposed by the Charter Commission. One of the proposals that will go to voters in November would dramatically alter the authority of the city manager.

Baker Tilly, the firm aiding the city in its search for a manager, recommended going slow on the search until the election results are known, as it could potentially change the job description and therefore significantly impact the candidates who might apply.

City spokesperson Jessica Grondin said there will be an internal review committee to review the police chief search firm proposals and make a recommendation to West. Unlike the city manager search, no council action is needed.

Besides the city manager and police chief, the city’s corporation counsel, public works director, and the directors of housing and economic development are filled by interim appointees.

— Colin Ellis