The Smithfield Town Council wants to know what qualifications and personality traits residents want in their next town manager.
The public will have its chance to weigh in at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, at Town Hall, 350 E. Market St.
The hearing is part of a draft timeline for the hiring process that interim Town Manager Jim Freeman submitted to the council last week. The council hired Freeman last month to keep the town running and to help find a replacement for Paul Sabiston, whom the council voted 4-3 to fire in August.
Earlier this month, the council chose to conduct an in-house manager search instead of hiring a consultant. The decision will save the town $20,000 to $30,000 but means more work for the town’s staff and elected officials.
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Freeman and Human Resources Director Tim Kerigan have been working on a set of criteria for choosing a new manager, Freeman said. Before the public hearing, the duo will also work with the council to incorporate the attributes that Smithfield’s elected officials are looking for in a new hire.
The town will present its list of criteria at the Sept. 28 meeting, Freeman said, and then give residents a chance to add to the list of qualifications and traits that the new manager should have.
“The public might have some other traits that we haven’t even considered,” he said. “This (new manager) is for the citizens. It’s the council’s decision, and they work for the citizens.”
Freeman and Kerigan will then turn those criteria into a detailed job listing, which they will begin advertising in early October. It’s important to put together a comprehensive and precisely-worded want ad, Freeman said, because that makes it easier to weed out applicants during the screening process.
According to the draft timeline, Smithfield will stop accepting applications in mid-November, and the council will take December to whittle down the list of candidates. The council will interview its final round of candidates after the first of the year, and councilmen will then trim the applicants down to two or three finalists.
After following up on references and running background checks, the council will select one candidate in February and begin negotiating the terms of a contract. Once the two parties can reach an agreement, the town will complete the hire and introduce the new manager to the public in late February or early March.
The public meeting is one of the first dates on the timeline, Freeman said, because it is crucial to hear from residents at the outset. That ensures that their opinions and expectations get incorporated at every step of the process, he said.
“When you involve the public later on, they’ve missed out,” he said. “They may say, ‘Well, you know those were the traits you were considering and screening for, but these other traits (are important to us),’ and by then it’s too late.”
Interim Town Manager Jim Freeman laid out the following time line for Smithfield to hire a new manager. The dates are subject to change, but the draft provides a rough overview of how the process will proceed.
Sept. 28: Hold a 7 p.m. meeting to learn what qualities Smithfield residents want the Town Council to look for in a new manager.
Oct. 5: Finalize wording of job listing and begin its advertisement.
Nov. 16: Close application process and begin preliminary screening of candidates.
Dec. 1: In closed session, Town Council reviews the applications of candidates who met minimum requirements. The council then begins process to whittle down the number of candidates over the next month.
Jan. 5: Town Council interviews last-round candidates in closed session.
January to February: Conduct reference and background checks on the council’s top two or three candidates.
February: Town Council conditionally selects a manager and begins negotiating a contract.
Late February to early March: Announce hiring of new manager.