Commissioners have agreed that its in the town’s best interest to bring in a firm to help with the hiring of Zebulon’s next town manager.
They’ve also indicated a desire to have the position filled by the end of April.
The town board heard a presentation by Developmental Associates President Steve Straus during a special-called meeting Feb. 9 before deciding to hire his firm to help analyze and narrow down candidates for the job.
“This is probably one of the most important decisions this board will make,” said Mayor Bob Matheny. “I mean, we’ve (hired a town manager) before, but it’s a different world out there.”
The town plans to complete a first wave of candidate screenings on its own and turn secondary screenings over to the firm at a cost of $200 per candidate. The town had reviewed 24 of 28 applications received as of the meeting, and of those the board sent eight candidates into the second screening phase.
In the second screening, the firm will have its staff conduct telephone interviews, administer emotional intelligence assessments and Zebulon-centered essay questions, and perform searches online to turn up any “dirt you would want to know about before hiring that person,” Straus said.
“We do not make any decisions for the board,” Straus told the commissioners. “What we do is provide you all this information we compile for you and we score the candidates and organize it in a systematic way so you can make the best decision.”
The board will review the firm’s findings and pare the list down to no more than seven candidates who will be asked to participate in an assessment center organized by the firm at a cost of $10,500.
“That’s the most important thing is that every step is this board’s decision instead of the decision being made by the tests,” said Commissioner Dale Beck. “It’s important that we get someone who is capable of doing the job that will fit Zebulon.”
The assessment center, likely a two-day process, is less about talking the talk and more about walking the walk, according to Straus.
“We design exercises that simulate what it’s like to be town manager in Zebulon and give them a challenge,” Straus said. “It will allow you to have a much deeper understanding of how the candidates perform. By the time you get done with all that, you’ve got a pretty good idea who the candidates are.”
The goal by the conclusion of the assessment center is to have narrowed the field down to two or three candidates, who will then be called in for final interviews.
“You don’t have to worry at that point if they can do the job, you already know that,” Straus said. “The biggest question is how’s the (candidate) fit with the town.”
While the board has yet to decide if it will make public the identities of any of the candidates before a final hiring decision is made, Straus reminded the commissioners they have that option.
“If you want us to, we’ll run a meeting with the public as well,” he said. “That’s up to you. About half the time we do, about half the time we don’t.”