City selects manager search firm

COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council has selected The Mercer Group Inc. of Atlanta to handle the search for the next city manager.

The council held a called meeting Monday night and heard from three candidates vying to be consultants on the search. A unanimous decision was quickly reached among the five council members present. Councilman Mike Whatley was absent.

The Mercer Group's fee is $15,000 plus out-of-pocket expenses not to exceed $4,500, such as travel, lodging, telephone and research. The Mercer Group proposal states that due to the current economy, a discount is being offered, with standard pricing at $16,500 plus out-of-pocket expenses of up to $8,000.

The cost does not include the expense of final candidates traveling to interview with city officials, which varies depending on location of the candidate, but The Mercer Group estimates the cost at $750 to $1,000 per person.

The Mercer Group President and CEO Jim Mercer told the council he will personally oversee the search. Mercer has 38 years experience in executive search and has completed more than 2,000 searches for executives in the public and private sectors. He founded The Mercer Group more than 30 years ago and had search experience with another firm prior to that. He is also a former assistant city manager of Raleigh, N.C. The company has 21 offices around the country and is headquartered in Atlanta. About half of the company's work is in executive recruiting for local governments, Mercer said.

The search will include interviewing council members and possibly city employees and department heads and even members of the community, if the council wishes, about desired qualifications for a city manager, Mercer said. The company will recruit regional and national candidates that meet the defined qualifications, conduct interviews, resume and background checks to narrow the field and make recommendations to the council. The company will also assist with interviews by city officials of the candidates; help with negotiations; conduct final background checks; and do follow-up to establish performance criteria and goals for the position after a candidate is hired.

Mercer said a 90- to 120-day timeline is average, and an estimated timeline provided to the city indicates the search could be closed by the end of October, with a candidate to start 30 to 60 days later.

Mercer said now is an ideal time to recruit, with many people taking a last summer trip in August and returning to work after Labor Day. "It's a good time to look for a city manager," he said.

Slavin Management Consultants of Norcross and WestonHouse International Inc. of Covington also made presentations.

Slavin Management has been in business since 1997, and President Bob Slavin has more than 30 years of experience. The company has worked in 44 states and placed 250 to 300 executives.

Slavin gave a fee of $13,865 plus out-of-pocket expenses capped at half of the professional fee of $6,932.50

WestonHouse International Inc. is a local company in business for four years without local government executive placement experience. The firm works on a contingency basis and charges only out-of-pocket expenses unless the city selects one of its candidates, at which point WestonHouse would be due 20 percent of the first year base salary for the position, which WestonHouse estimated should be between $110,000 and $130,000.

The fourth candidate, Resource Management and Acquisitions, did not send a representative to the meeting.

City Manager Steve Horton is retiring Dec. 21.


Bemused 3 years, 3 months ago

At least the City Council is trying to make it look like the fix isn't in, unlike the ridiculous coup staged by the 3 commissioners on the NC Board of Commissioners with their county manager appointment. Now we'll just have to see how serious they are or will this be an elaborate theater display and then then they'll give it to Stacey Cotton.


nenokr 3 years, 3 months ago

So what is wrong with giving it to Cotton if he is qualified to have the position? The City could do a lot worse!


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