The Helena City Commission plans to consider candidates for the permanent city manager position as soon as this summer.
The commission held a special meeting over video conference Wednesday to discuss the search for a new manager. They heard from Jenn Reichelt, a manager with the Novak Consulting Group, which is working with the city on the search process.
Reichelt said they plan to release a community survey next week to get input on what the public wants to see in the next city manager. They expect to start advertising the job in May, have the commission narrow down its list of candidates in June, and hold final interviews by July.
During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners discussed what minimum qualifications to require. The initial proposed language called for seven years of “progressively responsible experience in municipal government,” including five years in an executive role. However, commissioners decided to broaden the language to allow people with “analogous experience.”
“It would let somebody from state employment or from the private sector or from a larger nonprofit in, that otherwise we’re sort of boxing out,” said Commissioner Andres Haladay.
The job description will still say that local government experience is preferred.
The commission also talked about a possible salary range. During the last search for a city manager, in 2018, leaders proposed a range of $125,000 to $150,000 a year. Reichelt encouraged them to increase the top limit to $165,000, saying that would bring it closer in line with other comparable positions around the Northwest.
They also discussed some of the goals they will set for the new manager’s first months in office.
Leaders said they want to make sure that the community and city employees have chances to weigh in on the search.
“A number of people really want this to be a community-owned process, and a decision that is also community-owned,” said Commissioner Emily Dean.
“We definitely want as much information and as much feedback to make a good, informed, educated decision, so certainly that’s something we can incorporate into the process,” said Reichelt.
Former city manager Ana Cortez, who was hired in 2018, left her position in February. Melinda Reed, the former director of the Friendship Center, is serving as Helena’s interim city manager until a permanent replacement is hired.