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Bainbridge city manager search draws low number of applicants

The headhunting firm hired to find Bainbridge Island's next city manager said it has received half of the number of applicants it would typically see by this point in the search.

Potential candidates are also expressing concerns over the Bainbridge city council and its commitment to the council-manager form of government.

Strategic Government Resources told city officials that potential candidates are worried about how they would work with the city council.

Bainbridge Island City Hall has apparently developed a reputation as a tough place to keep a job. The city is searching for a new manager following the council's firing of Brenda Bauer in March, and city hall has had six city managers/administrators, and three city attorneys, in the past three years.

A total of 15 candidates have applied for the city manager position, but only two applicants are from Washington state. Two others are from Oregon, and the rest, from outside the Pacific Northwest.

Council members got an update on the search at their meeting Monday, and Councilwoman Anne Blair recalled a conversation from earlier in the day with Ron Holifield of Strategic Government Resources, the Texas-based company that is leading the search for the top executive in city government.

Blair said that the firm would normally expect double the number of applicants by this time in the search process.

Strategic Government Resources is fielding a lot questions about the position, she said, and most conversations revolve around the city council itself.

"The majority of the questions (Holifield) is receiving and is needing to address tend to be about concerns and working with us as a council, and our commitment to this form of government," Blair said.

Blair said that Holifield has also started sending additional outreach letters through the firm's exclusive network of city managers.

She also said quite a few other people had contacted Strategic Government Resources about the job, but have not actually applied for the position.

Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulus said the council need only recall the conversation about road repairs earlier in Monday's council meeting to find an example of the lack of harmony between some on the council and city employees.

Earlier in the meeting, the council postponed a discussion of a bid award for chip-seal repairs on city streets, and Councilman David Ward intensely questioned Public Works Director Lance Newkirk over the proposed contract. Ward then asked for the discussion to be tabled, and it was, on a 4-2 vote.

"I would say if I were a candidate for city manager and I watched what just transpired with the chip seal program, I would have grave concerns about wether or not this council is committed to this form of government," Hytopoulos said.

"I don't believe that is the way we should be talking to staff," she said.

Holifield told the Review Tuesday that aside from collecting resumes, he has spent a lot of time on the phone with inquiring candidates.

"Without a doubt, the thing that is catching the most attention is the amazing quality of life offered by living in Bainbridge Island," Holifield said.

According to the job announcement on the firm's website, the city is seeking a candidate with a degree in public or business administration who has 10 years of experience as a city manager. An advanced degree is preferred.

Bainbridge is also seeking someone with a financial background and familiarity with unions and labor laws, in addition to land-use issues.

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