Headhunting a headhunter

ClassifiedWichita City Council members have yet to agree on how they will screen, interview and hire a new city manager. And they’re already working at a slower pace than council members were four years ago when they sought a replacement for Chris Cherches. Here’s a comparison:

In 2003, the city waited only five days after Cherches’ resignation to request proposals from headhunting firms. This time around, it took them 20 days.

In 2003, the city gave search firms just nine days to submit a proposal. This year it’s 44 days. (Proposals are due Jan. 31.)

The city may not be in such a hurry this time because it has Wichita State University professor Ed Flentje filling in. He’s widely viewed as a cautious and competent manager, and many of the city’s top officials finished their public administration masters degrees with Flentje’s final class. Flentje also is spearheading an “environmental assessment” of City Hall, which is supposed to identify any major problems and suggest ways to do things more efficiently.

It’s probably worth noting that in the city’s request for a search firm, it said “while cost of service will be evaluated and considered, more attention will be given to the search firm’s past experience and service in recruiting for City Managers and the amount of time needed to complete the recruitment.”

In 2004, the city hired Slavin Management Consultants for $21,000. It’s unclear what Wichita may pay this year. But late last year, the city of Austin, which is significantly larger than Wichita, hired Arcus Public for $25,000 to produce candidates for a city manager vacancy there.

Wichita City Council members will discuss the screening and interview process again before creating a complete hiring outline. Their next meeting is Feb. 5.