ALPENA - The Alpena Municipal Council has narrowed its choices down to two for a consulting firm that will help locate qualified candidates to replace former City Manager Thad Taylor. The council expects to make a selection and hire one of the firms, which could cost as much as $19,000, and then can begin the interview process for the position.
Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora said four proposals were received, and a team made up of local professionals have whittled it down to the pair. Waligora said there is no deal in place with the firms and that it is still going to be some time before potential replacements for Taylor are interviewed.
"We have two firms the team is going to look at and then make a recommendation to the council," Waligora said. "We're still not anywhere near selecting candidates for the job, though. We're not ready to move on to that step yet."
It has been four months since the council terminated Taylor, and little progress has been made to fill the vacant position. Councilman Shawn Sexton said a plan should have been in place on how to proceed in finding a replacement before Taylor was released. He said the important thing is finding a replacement who is equipped to handle the responsibility needed in a manger.
"If the decision to fire the previous manager was prudent, the process to hire a replacement would have ended by now instead of the process just beginning," Sexton said. "With that said, it is more critical to work toward the goal of finding a replacement that is an excellent fit for Alpena than it is to make the hire in a specific amount of time.
"Based on our recent history - a few bad hires, termination of an excellent manager without cause, the current political climate, and a potential recall - accomplishing that goal is going to be challenging to say the least. I imagine it will take us into the new year before we find the type of candidate Alpena deserves."
Councilman Dave Karschnick agreed with Sexton in the fact that the council should take the time necessary to hire the right person. He said any time you hire, there is risk involved that it may not work out, but that being thorough helps avoid that from occurring.
"There is no such thing as a perfect candidate, but we do need one that is going to fit into the community, has good people skills, gets along with the council, staff and especially the citizens," Karschnick said. "If it takes us a little longer than people think it should, then that's OK, because we need to find the candidate that best suites Alpena. It is always a crapshoot. You do your due diligence by checking backgrounds, references, former employers, and hopefully everyone gives honest answers, and you hire who you believe is the right person."
Sexton said there is a certain amount of pressure on the council to make a good hire, but believes the interview process won't begin until after the November general election when it will become clear who will remain on the council.
"There is pressure to make an excellent hire. If council is going to fire a well-respected manger without an explanation to the public, then council owes the public a manager of equal or greater value," Sexton said. "In addition, the Alpena community is going to be rightfully skeptical of the hire, so the pressure is really on us to deliver."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.