Portland councilors plan to take their time finding manager search firm

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The Portland City Council subcommittee formed to find the next city manager will likely create its own request for proposals from headhunters, rather than taking a shortcut and borrowing results from cities that have conducted similar searches.

During the first meeting of the group Tuesday morning, interim Director of Human Resources Tom Caiazzo said the committee could go one of two ways: Decide to craft an original RFP to find a firm, or “piggyback” off other cities that have hired such search firms recently and potentially hire one of those firms.

Seal of the city of portlandThe committee members – Mayor Kate Snyder and Councilors Pious Ali, Mark Dion, and April Fournier – all expressed the desire to create an RFP unique to Portland. They will likely vote at their next meeting, which has not been scheduled.

Snyder said public comment would probably be allowed at that meeting, even though Caiazzo said it’s unusual to have public comment on components of an RFP because they are fairly common financial practices for the city and contain complex legal language.

He said this RFP is only about finding a search firm to help conduct a nationwide search for candidates and is not about beginning the actual hiring process for the next manager.

The city doesn’t have an existing RFP to model from when former City Manager Jon Jennings was hired, Caiazzo said, because there was no RFP issued at that time.

Dion, who seemed to favor going to other cities to streamline the process but said he was swayed by other councilors, said the city could still look at other RFPs for a template.

Ali and Fournier expressed interest in developing an RFP unique to Portland to ensure the firm that is hired shares the city’s equity goals and itself has a diverse staff. Ali, who served on the School Board when it hired Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana, said that was something the superintendent search subcommittee also prioritized.

The committee members agreed they should take their time to find a firm that can best meet the city’s criteria for replacing Jennings.

“I know we need to do this as soon as possible, but I do believe our city is in capable hands,” Ali said, adding he is willing to “take as much as time as possible” to do what was best for the city.

The interim city manager is Danielle West, who was Portland’s corporation counsel before Jennings departed for Clearwater, Florida.

Snyder said it would be beneficial at the next meeting to have a discussion about scheduling a date to post the RFP. She said she has some concerns about issuing it in late December or the beginning of January, during the holiday season, when many people may be traveling and the RFP may not be widely seen.

Caiazzo said the RFP would likely have to be open for 90 days.