MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 18, 2013

Council OKs city manager search process

Three groups will narrow group of candidates to list of 15 to 30 prospects

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— City councilors ironed out a process designed to narrow the field of nearly 50 applicants who have expressed an interest in becoming Muskogee’s next city manager.

The process, which will be conducted in-house, is similar in some respects to the one approved in 2007 after former City Manager Walt Beckham announced his retirement. But it is strikingly different in other aspects to the search that produced former City Manager Greg Buckley.

Like the city manager search that began during the waning months of 2007, councilors will put forward their top 10 picks. Departing from the earlier procedures, councilors then will form three groups of three and pool their choices for consideration and debate.

Each of the three groups — which will be headed by Mayor Bob Coburn, Deputy Mayor David Jones and Ward II Councilor James Gulley — will narrow the applicant group to a list of five to 10. That pool of 15 to 30 applicants will be screened for duplication and narrowed further for telephone interviews, background checks and personal interviews.

The primary difference that surfaced Tuesday as councilors debated the process was how quickly the pool of applicants should be scaled down to a manageable size. Coburn’s initial proposal would have allowed each councilor to put forward five applicants, but other councilors balked.

Ward I Councilor Lee Ann Langston said she already had five top choices but had yet to review the 48 resumes that have been submitted since Buckley resigned July 30. And there is still a possibility more will be received before the application period ends Sept. 30.

Ward IV Councilor Kenny Payne cautioned against narrowing the field of applicants too quickly.

“You would rather have one more (applicant to consider) than miss a good one,” Payne said. “We want the best person. That’s the bottom line.”

Coburn raised the idea of recruiting applicants if councilors knew someone they thought would make a good city manager but hasn’t applied, which won the support of his City Council colleagues. He also suggested department heads and labor leaders have an opportunity to provide input about councilors’ top choices.

Ward II Councilor James Gulley, one of two sitting councilors who has taken part in a search for city manager, said he believes the process outlined will narrow the field of applicants to a manageable number quicker than some expect.

“I’ll bet we’ll be pretty close,” Gulley said about the pool of applicants that emerge from the three groups. “We have a good, diverse council, and I think we ought to take advantage of that.”

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.