The Cary Town Council picked a firm to help find a new town manager Thursday night, with the hopes of launching a wide-ranging national search.
Current manager Ben Shivar announced in June that he will retire Sept. 30.
The council hopes to have a handful of finalists to choose from by this fall, and to have the new manager in office by early 2016. They expect at least 100 people will apply.
Cary hasn’t finalized its contract with Waters and Company Executive Recruitment to advertise the position, collect resumes and identify a dozen or so semifinalists. But a preliminary offer is for $23,500 plus $1,500 per day for each visit the team makes to Cary. The deal also includes a free do-over if Cary has to do a new search within two years.
They were selected in a 4-2 vote with Jennifer Robinson and Ed Yerha voting no.
The town manager is the most influential staff member in any municipality. He or she helps develop the annual budget, advises the elected officials and supervises all employees, from the police chief to the directors of parks, public works and finance.
It takes someone who’s smart and can balance being likeable with being an efficient manager. The Town Council and the two search firms applying for the job agreed on that criteria.
The search firms have different ways of reaching that goal.
Waters and Company, a Dallas-based firm with years of experience, promised it could reach a wide range of top-level national candidates.
The Durham-based Developmental Associates is newer, more academic and promised a deep network of statewide talent. Developmental Associates also conducted the 2009 search, after which Shivar was promoted from assistant town manager to town manager.
Just like the last search, the town expects to have internal candidates. Waters promised to also work on professional development and morale with any internal candidates not chosen for the job, if that happens, which Developmental did not.
The council chose Waters after nearly three hours of presentations and discussion.
The choice wasn’t an easy one. The town council was split 3-3 much of the night, with every official saying that either choice would likely be good.
A broad search
Councilman Don Frantz said he likes that Developmental is a local firm and would be able to respond more quickly. But he doesn’t like its heavy emphasis on its employees’ personal networks.
“Most of them are retired managers from local towns that, frankly, I’m not very fond of,” Frantz said. “Durham? Carrboro?”
That line of thinking ultimately helped the council decide on Waters, with its greater focus on a nationwide search.
“We’re the seventh largest city (in North Carolina), but we’re like number one in everything,” Mayor Pro Tem Jack Smith said. “So it’s important that it’s a broad-based search.”
“Is there anywhere in North Carolina we’d want the town manager to come to Cary?” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said, shrugging his shoulders. He got no response except scattered chuckles.
Still, Weinbrecht originally prefered the local Developmental team. But he was undecided and switched his allegiance to Waters after a series of points from Smith, who is the founder of an executive search firm.
Smith’s main concern is that Developmental is too focused on providing the Town Council with scorecards and data, instead of giving firm opinions on whether a candidate is good or bad.
“Well, you have the experience and background,” Weinbrecht told Smith. “I’ll reluctantly move your way.”
That gave a 4-2 vote for Waters, the national firm. Frantz and Lori Bush also voted yes.
Even though Smith fought for Waters, he wasn’t totally pleased. The representative who gave the presentation Thursday wouldn’t be the person who will be working with Cary in the future, because that representative was on vacation.
He suggested that the person who will be leading the search, John Anzivino, come to Cary soon to answer some of their lingering concerns that led to what he called a “half-hearted” vote.
“I’m so glad you said that,” said Robinson, who voted for the local group.
It’s unclear when that meeting with Anzivino might occur. The Town Council also hasn’t discussed who will lead the town from when Shivar retires on Sept. 30 and whenever his replacement is picked.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran