MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 15, 2013

Dozens apply for city manager job

Interim administrator not among them

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— An opening for Muskogee’s top administrative spot has generated a lot of interest, with more than 45 applicants to date.

Officials expect to get more candidates before the application period closes Sept. 30, a city spokeswoman said.

Interim City Manager Roy Tucker said city councilors won’t find his application among the final tally. Although he has enjoyed serving as the chief administrator, Tucker said, he is a lawyer at heart and enjoys his job as city attorney.

“I think it is going to be a great learning experience ... to take back with me when I resume my regular role as city attorney,” said Tucker, who was appointed to the administrative post until city councilors find a permanent replacement for former City Manager Greg Buckley. “I won’t tell you it has been easy — I have really enjoyed it, but it is nothing I want to do forever.”

City councilors began weeding through the applications just more than a week ago. Councilors will rank applicants in the coming weeks, said Kimbra Scott, a spokeswoman for the Muskogee City-County Port Authority and the city of Muskogee.

“This candidate screening process will help narrow the search,” she said. “After the number of candidates has been decreased to a manageable number, the interview committee will begin the selection process.”

The search and selection process, which is expected to be ironed out Tuesday, appears to be similar to the one approved in 2007 before Buckley was hired.

Some cities hire outside firms for executive searches. Muskogee’s councilors have opted to perform the process themselves.

Tucker said that as of Thursday night, 48 people had applied for the position.

Because of the impracticability of interviewing that many applicants, Tucker said, each of the nine City Council members likely will pick five or more choices and screen their lists for duplications before they select candidates to be invited for interviews.

Mayor Bob Coburn did not respond to inquiries about the search. Deputy Mayor David Jones said he had compiled “a book” of applications for review.

“There is a lot of interest out there,” said Jones, one of two sitting councilors who took part in the city manager search that began in the waning months of 2007. “I think this will be an ideal opportunity for somebody out there — there are a lot of good things happening in Muskogee.”

Although the search is in its early stages and the selection process has yet to be ironed out, Jones said he believes that some applicants “definitely do not qualify.” But there are others who appear promising.

Ward II Councilor James Gulley, who also took part in the 2007 city manager search, said “there are some pretty good candidates.” Although the process has been similar to the last city manager search, there has been no decision about how interviews will be conducted, he said.

“It’s pretty much the same process as the last time — you have nine different people (on the council) with nine different backgrounds looking at these,” he said. “I think everybody will have an opportunity to look at each candidate’s attributes and experience and then narrow down the list based upon who they think looks the best.”

Both Jones and Gulley agreed that although there is some eagerness to select the next city manager, it is an important decision that shouldn’t be rushed. The 2007 search took about four months, and a couple of more weeks passed before Buckley was sitting in the city manager’s second-floor office.

That search, however, differed somewhat from the current one. Buckley succeeded former City Manager Walt Beckham, who retired. Beckham remained on the job while city councilors searched for his successor and stayed for about two weeks after Buckley came on board to assist with the transition.

This time, Buckley won’t be around to help with the transition. Buckley, who said councilors felt he was no longer “a good fit,” resigned July 30 after councilors offered to accept his resignation.

“If we want to do due diligence, we may have to interview several people and them maybe interview some of them again,” Jones said. “We don’t want to rush it; we don’t want to miss the perfect individual. We’ve got it (the message) out there and people are responding — I think this is going to be a great opportunity for somebody and for the city of Muskogee.”

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