City narrows choices for new administrator

"There were some worn-out people dressed in professional attire at Oak Harbor City Hall Thursday night. But by now, Mayor Patty Cohen probably has a good idea who the next city administrator will be.Cohen put together a rigorous interviewing process all day Thursday to screen and test candidates for the $105,000-a-year city administrator position.Cohen’s office refused to release the names or any information on the candidates. Cohen will likely announce her choice for the new administrator later this month.The new city administrator, whoever it turns out to be, will replace Interim City Supervisor/ Finance Director Doug Merriman as the top non-elected city official, leaving Merriman to concentrate on finance. Merriman has acted in the double role since the former city supervisor, E.T. Silvers, was sent packing a year ago.Gretel Sloan, a human resources consultant with Sky Resources, Inc., is helping run the city’s supervisor candidate review process. The approach being used is called an “assessment center.”“An assessment center is identified as one of the best predictors of future success on a job,” she said.Sloan has worked with the city from the beginning of the hiring process last fall. She aided the city in advertising the position by designing a full-color brochure, helped with screening candidates and designed the assessment center. In all, she said her services will cost around $5,000.She said more than 20 people from all over the country applied for the job, but that number was chopped down to eight candidates through a screening process. Over recent months, four of those people found other jobs, leaving four candidates to go through the process this week.According to Sloan, the assessment center process consists of five different role-playing, job-simulation exercises to test the responses of the candidates.A group of volunteers on the assessment board grade each candidate on the responses. The volunteer board includes three city staff members, a mayor from another city and two city administrators. At the end of the process, they are supposed to meet together and come up with a consensus to recommend one to three of the candidates to the mayor for an intense interview with her the next day.The final decision is up to Cohen.Sloan said the assessment center is a common tool used to hire high-level government officials, particularly police and fire chiefs. Sometimes large corporations also use this or a modified process.According to the city’s brochure advertisement of the position, the city administrator’s job will revolve around providing good customer service and increasing economic development. The administrator’s “internal” responsibilities include developing “innovative administrative programs, policies and procedures to completely infuse” a new city-wide emphasis on customer service.In the community, the new administrator is expected to lead an in-depth survey of citizens to find out what they want to see in the next decade. "

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