2015-05-21 / Front Page

Manager Search on Next Step

By Tom Walsh

The formal list of candidates to become Newport's next city manager, first reduced from about 50 hopefuls to 12–10 of them men–has now been cut to six–all men.

‘”We’ve narrowed it down to six people,” said Councilor John F. Florez. “To be frank, no one at this stage has jumped out at me. I don’t feel we’ve gotten the quality of candidates that we should have for this position. There’s a lot of nuance that goes with this job. It’s a tough one for me. But once I meet with the individuals, my opinion could radically change.”

Florez said he was surprised that few women sought the position.

Meanwhile, City Councilors who would like to consider others among the original 50 resumes gathered by Randi Frank Consulting LLC of Wallingford, Conn., may do that, according to Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano.

“Several council members have asked to see the names and resumes of others,” Napolitano said. “If any council members want to discuss any other names on the consultant’s list, we will do it.”

The seven-member City Council will ultimately decide who is offered the city manager’s job.

One person who apparently will not take the job, regardless of how much some people would like him to, is interim City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson. Napolitano confirmed that Nicholson, who has long been the city solicitor as well as a practicing attorney, was offered the position but declined.

“He really enjoyed being solicitor,” Napolitano said. “That’s what he’s comfortable with. He was just being honest with us.” The mayor said she was not the only council member who would have liked for Nicholson to remain in the role. “He has done a good job” as interim manager, she said.

Florez said, “I have a lot of respect for Joe.” And, he added, were Nicholson interested in becoming Newport’s city manager, “I would welcome that conversation.”

The current search for a new city administrator began last July 25, when Jane Howington left the position to take a similar job in Hudson, Ohio. She resigned after twoand a-half years, citing difficulties dealing with the council.

Florez said he did not think the next city manager will face that problem. The current council makeup following last November’s elections has resulted in a “different overall tone,” Florez said. "We may not always agree, but we’re always cordial.”

When she resigned, Howington was making $150,000 annually, the highest salary ever paid a city manager in Newport.

Napolitano said specific salary figures for the next manager have yet to become part of the search process. “We want somebody really experienced,” she said. “Right now we have not defined what the job pays.” She said it is possible the next manager could be paid more than Howington.

The mayor also said that she hopes the position can be filled by August. However, she cautioned that, with summer vacations, the process could take longer.

Florez said the task of finding the right person for the manager post cannot be taken lightly. “We cannot just settle for someone in this position,” he said. “That would be a disservice to the people of Newport.”

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