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Assessor hiring process moves forward   

The city has lined up eight possible candidates to interview for the vacant city real estate assessor position following the retirement of longtime assessor Jean Jackson.

Director of Human Resources Robin Wynn told City Council at its Nov. 18 meeting that there are eight qualified candidates that have applied for the position, and asked members for guidance on how to proceed in the hiring process. Maria Skinner has been serving as the interim real estate assessor since Nov. 1.

“The candidate pool is exceptional,” Wynn said. “It actually is, and I’m very proud of the candidate pool because I think the initial thoughts were we may not get candidates. But boy, were we wrong. We’ve got some really great candidates.”

Mayor Linda T. Johnson asked about the candidates’ qualifications and whether they were equal. “Some offer stronger experience in leadership, and some may offer stronger experience in actual assessing,” Wynn said.

Johnson said in processes she’s been involved in, a human resources director would screen candidates down to the top three or four first before bringing them to council.

“Typically I would screen down, but in this particular case, the reason why I’m standing before you … is because all eight of the candidates do offer something. They do offer skills that I feel like all of you should have an opportunity to see, because if I screen based on limited criteria from the job posting, it may not be what you all expect or need.”

Wynn said she planned to proceed with video interviewing, asking each of the candidates to record their answers to the same set of questions and send them back by Nov. 30. She said it would cut down the time spent screening candidates to about 10 to 15 minutes, versus having to bring in each candidate for an in-person interview that could take an hour or more each, while also being mindful of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the video interviews would be used as a way to narrow in on the top two to three candidates to bring in for in-person interviews.

Councilman and mayor-elect Mike Duman supported the video interviews.

“I think that’s an awesome process,” Duman said, “because everybody’s on a level playing field, they’re answering the same questions, they’re not looking at anybody. It’s just, these are the questions we’re going to ask you, give us the answers and then see who impresses us. And if we get a consensus, you bring in two or three, or whatever and go through the whole process.”

Wynn ensured that councilmembers would also see a copy of candidates’ résumés as they are reviewing the candidates’ video interviews.

Council debated whether to review the video interviews on their own, or during a special meeting. City Attorney Helivi Holland told them that it might be more difficult for council to narrow the pool if they each choose their top three on their own, which could potentially not narrow the pool of candidates, versus meeting together in closed session to come to a consensus on a top two or three.

Councilman Roger Fawcett called for them to meet in a closed session during a special meeting, so they don’t have to worry about competing items on the council’s regular agenda. Another councilman, Tim Johnson, said he preferred to narrow the pool as a group.

After council discussed the issue, members agreed to hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. Nov. 30, two days before its regular meeting.

“None of this is small stuff,” the mayor said. “It’s going to take some time, and I think we all know that.”