Town leaders sliced the field of candidates for the position of Zebulon town manager in half during a closed-session meeting with a team of consultants Wednesday.
Next in store for the seven remaining candidates is an assessment center that will help the town board chose finalists for the job, who are expected to undergo final interviews in April.
The manager position, which opened up with Rick Hardin’s resignation in November, attracted 36 total candidates. The town trimmed that number down to 15 through a scoring process handled internally.
Representatives of Developmental Associates, the firm the town hired in February to help analyze and narrow down candidates, shared their findings from secondary screenings for 14 candidates at the meeting Wednesday. One candidate had backed out by that time.
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Developmental Associates President Steve Straus in February said the screenings, which cost the town $200 per candidate, consist of telephone interviews, emotional intelligence assessments, Zebulon-centered essay questions, and online searches to turn up any “dirt you would want to know about before hiring that person.”
Joining Straus at Wednesday’s meeting were firm consultants Heather Lee, an organizational psychologist, and Bob Morgan, the former assistant city manager in Greensboro and former town manager in Carrboro.
“Developmental Associates had scored (the candidates) and brought the results to us and it was our decision to pick who would go on to the next process,” said Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny.
The firm-led assessment center, costing the town $10,500, will provide a more vigorous, hands-on test for the seven surviving candidates.
“We design exercises that simulate what it’s like to be town manager in Zebulon and give them a challenge,” Straus told the town board in February. “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.”
Like the results of the secondary screenings, Matheny emphasized the way the firm rates candidates in the assessment center will serve as a guide for commissioners to consider as they chose finalists.
“The town will then decide how many (candidates) it wants to interview, I would guess two or three at the most, with the board of commissioners,” Matheny said. “We, the town board, will sit down with the finalists and do an interview some time in April – at least that’s the track we’re on.”
The town has yet to indicate if it will make the identities of any of the candidates public before a final hiring decision is made.
“When we get down to the finalists, we may have that discussion, but it’s just not time to have it yet,” Matheny said.