It’s not surprising that Haines Borough Assembly members who interviewed four finalists for the manager position Tuesday weren’t particularly excited by any of the candidates, given what little effort the municipality has taken to recruit applicants.
The job was posted only on six websites, which drew 20 applicants. That’s not a very big field for a job that has paid more than $100,000 a year and does not require an advanced degree. When Petersburg went to hire a police chief recently, they started with 60 applicants.
The difference? Petersburg hired a head-hunting firm, a professional outfit knowledgeable about finding talent, that started by casting a wide net. In Haines, we should have known that to catch a derby winner, you have to make a serious effort fishing.
Assembly members still have several options, but none of them should be to repeat their most recent mistake – to take what they could get, and to accept mediocrity on the job.
1) Readvertising, more widely this time, including in newspapers and trade publications.
2) Hiring a recruitment firm and starting again.
3) Hiring one of its four finalists on a probationary basis, subject to a rigorous review after six months, including an assembly vote on retention.
To pursue options #1 and #2, the assembly should consider hiring an experienced manager on an interim basis. Having the clerk serve as manager and the deputy clerk serve as clerk unfairly taxes clerks not trained or experienced in leading the municipality. It also creates pressure to make a hire, increasing the likelihood of a poor choice.
Finding a good manager is likely to cost more money than we’ve spent so far. Big deal. Quality doesn’t come cheap.
A final note: Only three of our six assembly members sat in on Tuesday’s interviews. For a decision as consequential as hiring our town’s most powerful public employee, the assembly will need all the brainpower and homework it can bring to bear.
-- Tom Morphet