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home : opinion : opinion May 26, 2016


10/30/2013 6:00:00 AM
Column: New manager has plenty of work waiting

Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter


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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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013
Article comment by: DENISE BENSUSAN

Welcome sir and GOOD LUCK!

Denise Bensusan


Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Article comment by: Jon Mullinix

The picture of the new manager in the Miner kinda looks like the wizard in the Wizard of Oz,
Maybe he can get behind the curtain and pull some strings that will be good for the city of Kingman. We do need some new direction. I say good luck to Mr. Dougherty in his new job.


Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013
Article comment by: A Serious Thought

"Existing employees are professionals who have gone without raises in five years."

I would hope they are professionals! As for the raises, they are one up on everybody else that have actually been laid off or had to take pay cuts but at the same time keep in mind that "Kingman is on the financial ropes".


Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013
Article comment by: pl .....

I'm real sorry about being esotoric. It's just that I saw and experienced so many things while living in Kingman which were not esotoric at all. These were the sort of things which required complicity on the part of several government entities. The City Manager must be able to look other department heads in the eye on a regular basis, ask hard questions, and project himself in such a way as to get honest answers. If he lacks the curiousity or knowledge from which to do this, start with the Daily Miner web forum.

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Article comment by: Chuey Tidbittle

All the candidates for city manager appear to be highly qualified. Deciding which one to fill the position will be a difficult decision.
I heard that Kingman City employees in department meetings met with and had a chance to evaluate the candidates. It is a mistake to hire a city manager based on the recommendations of the people he is to manage. The city council should not cede their responsibility to hire the city manager to the very people who are to be managed. Employees should not be making hiring decisions. The managed do not hire the manager. It is human nature to want the “easiest” manager, the cushiest job, the next raise. What the city needs now is a tough manager, one who will make cuts where necessary and manage a tight budget under difficult circumstances. The criteria for the new city manager is not to satisfy the desires of city employees. The job of the elected city council is , among other things, to run a financially efficient government. As elected officials, representing the voters of Kingman, I hope you understand that goal and make your decision based on that goal, and not on the natural and human desires of city employees to have an understanding or generous manager.
Thanks,
Chuey Tidbittle


Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Article comment by: Charlie Brown

Some of the comments on this thread are so esoteric, that they are useless to the average reader. However, the first couple of comments are spot-on. I'm sure we will all end up feeling like Sally Brown who lost out on tricks and treats for trusting someone who believes in the Great Pumpkin.

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: pl .....

I just woke up from an afternoon nap (getting older, along with medical issues I can only wish would go away), and read your column, which appears to be the meatiest and most relevant I have seen to date. I haven't been awake long enough to consider whether that makes up for one or two previous columns, which reflected the exceedingly bad company you had been keeping. And as for Kingman and its governance & finances, well, I may write in tomorrow after the shindig is over. Don't shrug your shoulders too sadly, as there's Janice Palmer & that Independent party gathering at the library on Halloween, tomorrow. Look for a guy inn his mid-60's, who looks like everything the local criminals could throw at him can be brushed off after a while, but that national-level/historical crap......well, see ya tomorrow, or maybe even tonight. It's only about three-thirty in the afternoon. You know what they say about a good man and Afghan tap water? Righty-o, you can't keep them down.

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: Chance Morgan

This is no time for "on the job training". I see plenty of comments from the procurement office, but none from Mohave Ed. Why?

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: frank harris

Doug, you make a good point about the process being too secret. We don't need to know what is said about each candidate by council members, what questions are asked by what councilman. However the citizens do deserve to know what the criteria is, what expectations and requirements is conveyed to the candidates and detailed background of the top three candidates.

The council has screwed this search up from the very beginning. First Jack gives them several months notice of his retirement. The council should have organized a search committee and the structure at that very moment. It should have had the new manager in place with a two week overlap as Jack was winding down. That's called smooth transition. Then it fails to understand the standards of negotiations and the common acceptable standards of a benefit package at the CEO level. If that isn't enough it then announces they will only look at local candidates yet, places the opening nationwide. Now do we (or the out of town candidates) really believe the choice of Lingerfelter isn't a done deal.


Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: Incompetence Reins in Council Chambers

The "last guy" accepted the lowest salary which apparently the city wasn't ever going to change. During negotiations he brought up severance - a reasonable idea given the city is hiring a CEO. The city was quick to give another NO. The city spent considerable time and money selecting him then refuses to even discuss what seemed to be important to the candidate. Did the search committee honestly think this guy who served years as a manager of a similar sized city did not want to do a good job and planned on being manager until retirement - he was in his 50's and was moving his family across the county to accept the position. The city would have saved a lot of money and time if it floated some low ball figure based on a certain amount of time serving. City manager is an extremely important position and can certainly have a major impact on the growth of a city if the correct person is chosen and the city supports and does not hinder him/her. Unfortunately, it is clear this council is going to fail on both these points and our city will continue to muddle along.



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