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UPDATED | Bainbridge searches for a new city manager, Texas-style
There were no tumble weeds blowing through council chambers. There was no clink, clink, clink from the sound of spurs.
But when a lone man from Texas strolled to the front of the room, he soon shot down his competition with his easy Southern charm.
The Bainbridge Island City Council unanimously selected Strategic Government Resources as the company to find Bainbridge Island's next city manager.
Representatives from the executive search firms Affion, The Mercer Group, Prothman and Strategic Government Resources gave presentations to the council at a special meeting Tuesday to stake their claim for the job. They came fully loaded; plenty of notes, a few PowerPoint printouts and polished pitches.
Then there was Ron Holifield, CEO of Strategic Government Resources, the final presenter of the evening. The man from Keller, just south of Fort Worth, walked up to the podium in the council chambers with empty hands but plenty of Lone Star straight talk.
From the start it was clear that he wasn't from around these parts.
"I appreciate y'all waiting through a long evening," Holifield began.
"You have four good firms, and any of the firms are going to be able to get you a stack of well-qualified candidates," Holifield said.
Then came some big talk, and some blunt stuff, too.
"We have an edge in terms of our expertise with city management, our reputation and our network," Holifield said.
When asked where he would most likely find successful candidates for the manager's job, Holifield said they should consider everyone, but they would likely be found within 200 miles.
He didn't stop there.
"The reality is that y'all have a bit of a lively reputation," Holifield said. "I think there is a challenging dynamic that may push that out a bit further."
Holifield said his firm is different because of the amount of time and energy it would spend to understand the culture of the city's organization, and the community, to find a proper match.
Most of Strategic Government Resources' placements have been in the southern U.S., around Texas. Holifield said the job would be the firm's first placement of a city manager in a Washington city.
With a desire to break into the Northwest market, Strategic Government Resources would have significant motivation to get it right with Bainbridge Island.
"It's a big deal to us to be able to get the first Washington state search. You will have a whole lot more of my attention than maybe would be normally the case," Holifield said.
"It has huge impact on us what kind of reputation we get in the Northwest coming out of this search," he said.
Holifield promised the council all-hours access to his company, his team and himself.
All members of Strategic Government Resources' team are also former city managers themselves, he added, and noted he was a city manager in five Texas cities before starting his company.
Council members narrowed their options from four companies into a final two — Affion and Strategic Government Resources — with Holifield's firm in the lead. Both the firms were among the initial recommendations of the council's ad hoc committee for the city manager search in March.
Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos told the council that she was initially concerned that Strategic Government Resources was based in Texas and hadn't placed anyone locally. Her concerns didn't last long.
"Within a few minutes I was really impressed," she said. "It was a really easy decision to make him my first choice."
Councilman Bob Scales said that he admired Holifield's frank and honest demeanor.
All the council members came away with the same impression and gave glowing observations of Holifield.
The council asked city staff to immediately hire Strategic Government Resources and help the company get started with the search for Bainbridge Island's next city manager.
Not discussed at the interview, but another attractive aspect of Strategic Government Resources, was that their proposed fee for the job was well under what many of the other firms asked for. The firm asked for $7,500 for the search, with expenses up to $6,500. Affion, the second choice of many on the council, had pitched fee that was approximately double that of Strategic Government Resources.