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Council agrees to search firm for new city manager

Suffolk City Council agreed to hire a firm in its search for a new city manager.

Council voted unanimously to hire Development Associates of Chapel Hill, N.C., to conduct the search, having narrowed their choices to that firm and GovHR USA of Illinois.

The need for a search comes after former City Manager Patrick Roberts announced in September that he was resigning and taking another job in North Carolina. Al Moor currently serves as the interim city manager.

“In reviewing and viewing this packet from Development Associates, this package was very comprehensive,” said Councilman Roger Fawcett. “It laid out every detail that you even think you have to know of — how they’re going to conduct this search, down to the cost factor, down to the timeline that they will use in order to engage this. I found this packet to be very, very thorough and comprehensive.”

Councilman Donald Goldberg said he had also reviewed the materials of the two firms and seconded a motion from Fawcett to hire Development Associates.

“We’re not trying to push it or anything of that nature, other than we need to move ahead looking for our next city manager,” Goldberg said. “We just need to move ahead and find our next city manager.”

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Mayor Linda Johnson did not have an objection to the search firm and called both proposals good ones, but preferred GovHR USA.

“Government HR is one that has a whole lot more involvement with hiring city managers than the one from Chapel Hill,” Bennett said. “I really like the one better, but I can go along with it just to move the project ahead. … To me, (GovHR USA) had a better résumé, but I’m fine.”

Councilman and mayor-elect Mike Duman, who had not received the packet with the search firms due to his absence from the previous council meeting, asked city Human Resources Director Robin Wynn what her preference was.

“Looking at both of them, I thought they both were very strong executive search firms that certainly could do it,” Wynn said. “And working with Developmental Associates, they’ve been very responsive — both of them have been. But Developmental Associates has been responsive and is very eager, and they’ve worked with the city before.”

During the process that led to Roberts’ hiring in 2015, council cut the search short and hired him from among 25 applicants. He had been serving as the interim city manager and was hired at a $170,811 salary with $12,000 of deferred compensation annually and a $700 monthly automobile allowance. In July 2019, Roberts received a two-year contract extension through June 30, 2021 along with a 5% raise from council, putting his yearly salary at $197,108, with a deferred compensation contribution of $16,000 paid annually.

When former city manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn left for the same job in Richmond, she had been making $184,618 after having started out at $147,000 when she was first hired.

The council also unanimously approved allowing Wynn to start interviewing four candidates for the city real estate assessor position following the resignation of Jean Jackson. Currently, Maria Skinner is serving in that role. Council approved Skinner for the interim job at its Oct. 26 meeting.

Wynn said she would begin preliminary phone screens with each candidate, and if any other viable candidates apply before the Nov. 15 close date for applications, she would add them to the pool, but the approval allows her to get a head-start. Once she does the phone screens, Wynn said she plans to put a packet together for council to review before it decides who to appoint to the position. City code calls for the council to appoint “one or more assessors within the city and prescribe their duties and terms of office.”

“Time is money and savings, so the sooner we can get this out there, the better,” Bennett said.