Candidates from across the country have until Monday, July 30, to apply for the most powerful staff position in Asheville city government. On July 3, the city released its recruitment brochure seeking a permanent successor for former City Manager Gary Jackson, whom Council unanimously dismissed in March in the aftermath of a police beating scandal.
The role, currently filled by interim City Manager Cathy Ball, oversees all of the city government’s daily operations and advises Council members as they develop long-term plans. Responsibilities include preparing Asheville’s more than $180 million budget, appointing department heads and ensuring the equitable enforcement of city policies and laws.
Assembled with help from Texas-based consulting firm Springsted|Waters, the recruitment brochure incorporates input from four public meetings, a staff meeting, a comment hotline and an online survey. A total of 124 survey responses were recorded through the city’s Open City Hall website, with 22 total attendees at the public meetings and 27 total staff attendees.
The public’s opinions come through most clearly in the “strategic leadership opportunities” section of the brochure. With items such as community-police relations, equity and social justice, affordable housing and strategies for smart growth (specifically including strategies to limit gentrification), the list addresses a cross section of Asheville’s most pressing issues.
The “desired capabilities and traits” section appears to focus more on the internal concerns of city staff. Candidates for the role should prepare to “foster a positive, innovative organizational culture that engages and empowers employees”; “develop objective and impartial working relationships with all City Council members”; “build a leadership team with shared values and clear expectations”; and “exert confidence and display the fortitude to say no.”
While the brochure does not list the salary range for the position, Jackson’s starting salary in 2005 was $140,000, and his pay as of December 2017 was $195,214.10. The new manager will also receive life, health and dental insurance, 401(k) contributions, Local Government Employee Retirement System contributions and relocation expenses if moving from out of the area.
Recruitment for the city manager position is starting later than staff had originally planned. The first version of the timeline estimated final candidate selection as taking place during the week of July 30, with announcement of the new manager by August; under the current timeline, candidate assessment won’t begin until the end of the month, and the manager won’t be announced until Sept. 20. The October-November window for the new hire actually beginning work remains unchanged.
Jaime Joyner, the city’s interim human resources director, said that the extended timeline was due to the scheduling of additional opportunities for community input. She added that the review of semifinalist candidates and finalist selection will take place during the week of Aug. 20. The city has not named the panel of key community leaders that will assist Council in reviewing applicant resumes.
As of July 11, the city had received eight applications. Joyner said the job has been advertised with organizations such as the International City/County Management Association, North Carolina League of Municipalities, Virginia Municipal League and National League of Cities. The city is also reaching out to prospective candidates personally by phone and email.
Those interested in applying for the position should visit the Springsted|Waters website (avl.mx/53p) to submit a resume and cover letter. Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree in public administration or related field (master’s preferred), with at least 10 years of high-level managerial experience in a complex organization. Finally, as the brochure notes, “experience managing rapid growth in a city with significant architectural structures and a thriving tourism industry is a plus.”