Be thorough in searching

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 16, 2002

The City of Suffolk is prepared to mount a national search for a city manager to replace the retiring Myles Standish – a search that could cost up to $30,000, according to a news story Tuesday in The Virginian-Pilot.

The money ostensibly would be paid to an executive search firm that typically receives from 25 to 35 percent of the salary the new manager would make in his or her first year.

The obvious question is why spend the money when nearly-deputy city manager Steve Herbert is in place, knows Suffolk and its government like the back of his hand, and apparently is interested in the job?

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According to the Pilot report, some on city council are under the impression it’s a done deal, that Herbert has the four votes necessary to get the job.

That may well be, and if so we should hang on to the money. Mayor E. Dana Dickens III told the newspaper he believes the job is wide open.

If that’s the case, then there is merit in conducting as thorough a search as possible. Hiring good people is the most important job any employer can undertake and far too many are not willing to devote the legwork and resources necessary to do the task well. And when the position being filled is at this level, the importance of doing the job well is compounded.

If Herbert winds up with the job anyway, good. He is intelligent and talented and would likely do a wonderful job. Nonetheless, city council members have an obligation to the citizenry to involve themselves deeply in the task and devote their full attention to it.