COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council held a called meeting Monday evening to discuss how to proceed in the selection process of a new city manager.
City Manager Steve Horton is retiring, and recently announced that his last day on the job will be Dec. 21.
Mayor Ronnie Johnston recommended that the council hire an outside professional firm to recruit and vet applicants, noting that "this is a critical position for the whole city" and recommending the council take a broad perspective, on the state and national level. He also acknowledged that there is also likely interest on the local level and using an outside firm would keep the process "the broadest and cleanest."
Two firms -- The Mercer Group Inc. out of Atlanta and Slavin Management Consultants out of Norcross -- have already submitted proposals related to the selection process. A third company that was solicited has not yet responded.
The council agreed to interview representatives from the companies before making a decision, with a meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, at City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.
Johnston said the cost to hire consultants will likely be between $15,000 and $20,000 and said the entire process will take 90 to 120 days at best. Once candidates are narrowed by the firm, the council will then interview the top candidates, he said, adding that he expects the process "will take many hours of this council's time."
"I think we need to make sure we go through the right due diligence to end up with what we believe will be the best candidate," he said.
The city manager oversees the day-to-day operations of the city and all its departments. There is not currently a set salary range for the position, but Horton currently earns an annual salary of $112,798, according to Human Resources Director Ronnie Cowan.
Cowan said he believes that is low compared to other city managers doing comparable work, noting that Horton had not accepted salary increases of late. Cowan said he believes whatever consulting firm is hired by the council will likely make recommendations as to a salary and benefits package for the new city manager.
The position requires a bachelor's degree in business administration, accounting, public administration or a related field from an accredited college or university, with a master's or other graduate degree preferred.
Ten years experience in public administration with supervisory experience and a minimum of five years as manager and director of a municipal or county department is also required, along with knowledge of municipal budgeting procedures; record keeping; computers and software; city, county, state and federal laws and ordinances impacting city government; the city's organizational structure and processes.