The Haines Borough Assembly is scheduled to bring four manager candidate finalists to town for two days of receptions and interviews May 13-14.

The assembly met Tuesday and whittled down the pool from the 10 semi-finalists selected by executive search firm Brimeyer Fursman. Members worked from a packet of information compiled by the search firm, including the company’s assessment of each candidate and written responses by candidates to specific questions.

The four finalists are Dennis Koenig, current city manager of La Jara, Colo .; Ken Decker, county administrator of Caroline County, Md .; William Seward, director of auxiliary and recreational boating safety for the Coast Guard in Miami; and Mark Karet, administrative services director for Hillsborough County, Fla.

Rejected candidates include two Alaskans currently holding prominent executive positions: Paul Dauphinais, executive director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission since 2011, and Brandon Cullum, chief operating officer of REACH Inc. since 2014.

The other rejected semi-finalists were: Kevin Opple, director of operations at a naval station in Everett, Wash., since 2013; Kate Fjell, assistant to the city manager in Boonville, Mo., since 2014; and Richard Hough, brigade commander of the 1st Brigade, Great Lakes Division in Arlington Heights, Ill.

Semi-finalist Hunter Rieseberg dropped out of the running before Tuesday’s meeting.

The assembly agreed to set up a community group to meet with the candidates. The group will consist of the same people who scheduled meetings with Brimeyer Fursman when the firm came to town to compile the community profile for the manager job advertisement.

It took the assembly nearly two-and-a-half hours to cut down the list, with members debating who they thought would be best, and why.

After taking an initial vote, Koenig and Karet immediately rose to the top, with Koenig making it onto five out of six members’ lists.

Koenig almost happened into his current manager position in Colorado by accident. He moved to town with his wife after running a construction business in Meeker, Colo., for 14 years.

“He went for it and he just did a remarkable job,” Fursman said. “He seemed to me like a veteran manager, not somebody who had been at it 5-6 years, but somebody who had been at it (for) their professional career.”

Like former manager Sosa, Koenig was in the United States Marine Corps.

Candidate Karet was also a clear frontrunner, receiving four out of six votes. Karet has a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Florida and has worked as an administrative services director in Florida since 2008. He has also worked as a planning manager and community development director.

Assembly member Diana Lapham asked about one of Fursman’s observations that Karet “may become withdrawn if there is high conflict.”

“We don’t come to fisticuffs here, but I don’t know to what degree a conflict is for him. I’m concerned about that,” she said.

While Koenig and Karet seemed to be easy choices for the group, the assembly struggled to decide on two more finalists: Decker and Seward.

Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer was concerned about a comment Decker made in his written survey. In response to a question about his approach to encouraging community input/participation, Decker wrote, “The majority of community residents want the results of outstanding local government without the bother of active participation.”

While Friedenauer was concerned, assembly member Mike Case said Decker was “spot on.”

The assembly finally decided on a fourth finalist after debating between candidates Seward and Susan Jensen. Jensen, operations manager for Anchorage’s Bayshore Owners Association since 2005, was a manager finalist three years ago when the assembly decided to hire David Sosa.

“The lady did not interview well in the past,” assembly member George Campbell said, adding that when he met her at the Alaska Municipal League conference in Anchorage “she didn’t present as well as some people do.”

Yet, Campbell still lobbied on Jensen’s behalf, saying he was glad to see Jensen on Fursman’s list of semi-finalists.

“She wants to live in a coastal community where she can tie her sailboat up because she loves to sail,” Campbell said. “We always talk about hiring local. I gotta tell you, this could be the person next door to any of us with the activities that we do and the people we are. This person in the group is the closest to a Haines individual of anybody you’ll ever find, I think, in a job interview.”

Assembly member Ron Jackson floated the idea of including Jensen for the sake of diversity, but others didn’t like the idea of including a candidate based on gender.

The assembly finally picked candidate Seward, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, as its fourth finalist. Seward has no municipal experience and has worked for the Coast Guard in different capacities at various stations across the country.

Jackson was asked after Tuesday’s meeting how two Alaska-based candidates with executive-level experience – Dauphinais and Cullum – didn’t make a list of finalists.

“Some of the candidates didn’t have any municipal experience. If someone didn’t have any municipal experience or budgeting experience, they’d be starting at a weak point compared to others with municipal leadership experience,” Jackson said.

Jackson said assembly members “weighed Fursman’s assessments heavily, but not totally.”

“The top two they rated, in general we supported. We leaned toward some of their top ones,” Jackson said. “The two top ones were pretty evident, the (number) three and (number) four were a little more discussion.”

A “general feel for how they would fit into the community” was also considered, Jackson said. “It wasn’t big in the weighting but we all commented on it.”

The assembly voted in December to hire Brimeyer Fursman for $27,500 (plus expenses not to exceed $10,000) to search for the borough’s next manager and police chief.