2015-12-03 / Front Page

73 Vie to Be Manager

By Tom Walsh

Newport City Councilors hope that a recent two-month advertising campaign has enticed strong interest from the business community as well as those with government experience to be among the 73 applicants expressing interest in the position of city manager.

According to Michael J. Coury, Newport human resources administrator, 20 Rhode Island residents applied for the job. Three of them live in Newport, three live in Wakefield, two are from North Kingstown, two are from East Greenwich, one lives in Middletown, and one is from Tiverton. Also, one candidate comes from each of Barrington, Bradford, Johnston, Narragansett, Pawtucket, Providence, Riverside and Westerly.

Six manager candidates live in Massachusetts, three live in Connecticut and two are from New Hampshire. One lives in Richmond, British Columbia on Canada’s west coast, 3,164 miles from Newport. Two applicants live in California. Individuals from Oregon and the state of Washington also applied. No one from Maine or Vermont sought the post.

Coury said the applicants included “several” with military or prior city manager experience. There were also numerous repeat applicants who had expressed their interest earlier in the process as a result of the work done by Randi Frank Consulting LLC, the firm hired by the city months ago to solicit manager candidates. The council declined to proceed with any of the 50 applicants from that source.

With the current city-run application process now closed, an anonymous seven-member screening committee nominated by the City Council to recommend the best candidates has until Dec. 18 to do that job, according to Second Ward Councilor Lynn U. Ceglie, the council’s liaison with the city manager selection process.

Ceglie said she would like to see the screening panel submit 10 names from the applicant field and three alternates. From that group, Ceglie added, the top six would probably be invited to interview with the council. Travel and lodging expenses for interviewees are paid by the city.

“Better to have more than not,” Ceglie said.

Coury said, “My hope is to have someone on board either in late February or early March.”

“I’m hopeful that some time in February we would have it down to the last few interviews,” Ceglie said. “By the end of February would probably be the best case.”

Others see the process taking a little longer. “Hopefully it will be done by March or April,” said Third Ward Councilor Kathryn E. Leonard. “We’ll see. You never know until you open the box.”

As December rolls forward, the process will temporarily slow down as there will be no candidate interviews during the Christmas holidays.

“It’s not fair to the applicants or to the council to proceed during the holidays,” said Mayor Jeanne- Marie Napolitano.

The city’s search for a new manager officially began in June, 2014, when its most recent permanent manager, Jane Howington, resigned after two-and-a-half years to take a similar post in Hudson, Ohio. Joseph J. Nicholson, who had been the city solicitor as well as a practicing attorney, has served as interim city manager. Although at least some members of the council apparently favored Nicholson to become the permanent manager, Nicholson made it known that he was not interested in the opportunity.

If the selection process produces a new manager by the end of February, Newport will have gone 20 months without a permanent manager. A portion of that time can perhaps be attributed to the November 2014 local elections and the feeling that the new council should appoint the next manager.

“I never thought it would take this long,” said at-large Councilor Justin S. McLaughlin. In retrospect, he said, “I’m not sure the consultant we hired was especially good at it. However, a lot of people use recruiters. It was worth trying.”

Consistent with the city's private process for selecting a new manager, councilors interviewed for this story all professed to have no knowledge about the 73 individual applicants.

“I have no idea who is in the mix. No idea,” Napolitano said. “I’ve maintained my distance. I want to view it with fresh eyes.” Ceglie said that she had no way of knowing at this point whether strong business candidates are among the 73 who have applied, but said the council, with its advertising for the manager position, tried to “blend” the city’s message to attract candidates from the business community as well as those with government experience. “That way we would get candidates from both worlds.”

Coury said the ideal city manager candidate would have a resume reflecting business and municipal experience. “In this case,” he said, “the person with business experience would understand that Newport’s taxpayers are the customer. In any case, whoever gets this position will get a phenomenal workforce.”

Coury also said the city’s advertising for a new manager was almost entirely electronic. He maintained that such advertising with various local and national entities is far more powerful than using traditional print ads. He added, “Most of the responses came in electronically as well.”

Advertisements specified a potential salary range of $140,000 to $180,000.

Napolitano would not flatly rule out introducing a more public aspect to the proceedings as they move forward.

“Who knows,” she said, “at one point we may want to interview in open session.”

One way or another, McLaughlin said, “We’ve got to get somebody who’ll be good at the job. We’ll be better off when we get the city manager thing squared away.”

Return to top