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Column: New manager has plenty of work waiting

Residents have the opportunity to meet the next Kingman city manager at 6:30 p.m. tonight when Mayor Janet Watson and the City Council host a reception at City Hall designed to introduce us to the three finalists.

Nobody will know which of the three might be offered the position, but it is almost certain one of them will receive an employment offer on Friday.

Here are four things the winning candidate must realize going in:

• Kingman is on the financial ropes, services have been cut, employees have been let go and a desperate search for a new revenue stream has begun in earnest.

• The city has a high-priority to-do list a mile long and it's your job to shrink it down to a manageable level.

• Existing employees are professionals who have gone without raises in five years. Many, if not most of them, wear more than one hat and everybody struggles with the new reality of having to do more with less - something those of us in the private sector grew accustomed to years ago.

• When negotiating your employment contract, don't play hardball for a sweetheart deal in the event your job ends prematurely.

Watson and the City Council are fresh out of golden parachutes, a fact that was made amply clear when negotiations broke down a couple of months ago between the city and the last guy who was offered your job.

Understand that tonight is your night to shine. Watson and the City Council are hosting this shindig to give you an opportunity to meet residents, but they also want residents to subtly offer them their opinion of you.

I'd love to offer residents insight on what they might expect, but Watson and the City Council have discussed two city manager searches held since July in almost total secrecy.

They meet in closed session and apparently take an oath that whatever is said in private remains private. Actually, state law forces them to keep their mouths closed, but still, the mafia would be proud.

To a person, they refuse to provide any information whatsoever.

An Internet search on the three candidates didn't reveal much beyond a few tantalizing headlines about Ponzi schemes in Utah and a coup in Wisconsin, but a deeper search revealed our candidates were on the periphery of scandal, not participants.

I've been through more city manager searches than I can count and I've come to realize they are like quarterbacks on a football team.

Those who can lead a team, respond well under pressure and deal with a diverse group of personalities are more likely to succeed than are those who play favorites, create cliques, disrespect authority and crumble like a clod of dirt when the stakes are highest.

I really have no idea if any of the candidates are more Joe Montana than Ryan Leaf. Hopefully, Watson and the Council picked the most professional three applicants out of the 60 who initially sought the job.

One man whose name obviously was not on the list was Chuck Osterman. It's too bad he has no interest in taking on the job full time.

Osterman has done a yeoman's job filling in as the interim city manager since July - not bad for a guy who is also chief of the Kingman Fire Department.

Osterman and I have had the opportunity to converse on those times Watson and the City Council go into closed session.

His family has been here for generations and that's a point of pride for the chief. He's one of the city's best cheerleaders despite his low-key nature. He has decades' worth of institutional memory and his integrity can't be questioned.

Not too long ago I asked him if he was interested in the full-time city manager gig.

Osterman said nothing and would only smile - the way you smile at someone you fear might be off their rocker.


Following tonight's informal reception, the City Council on Thursday will interview the trio of candidates - in closed session - and could offer one of them a job on Friday, after another closed session.


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