During their special afternoon meeting on Wednesday, the Los Banos City Council, with Mayor Tom Faria absent due to an emergency, interviewed three executive search firms in the effort to find and hire a new city manager. They heard from Berkeley-based Koff & Associates, Oklahoma-based ProRecruiters and Merced-based Sectaris Partners.
During the Public Forum resident Anna McCauley was the only person to speak saying, “we will have one or more members on the council after the November election. I don’t think it’s useful for the current council should make the decision.” She wanted the council to “hold off hiring a new city manager”.
“We’re looking for a brand, new slate and that can begin with the new council making the decision,” she continued. “Let’s make the next council responsible for hiring the new city manager.”
“Each firm was delegated 30 minutes,” City Clerk Lucy Mallonee said.
The first firm to be interviewed was Berkeley-based Koff & Associates represented by Frank Rojas who said he’s “been doing recruiting since 1981”.
“What happened to the last city manager? People are going to ask that question. We don’t want rumor to be out there,” he stated about the recruitment process in response to a question by District 3 Councilman Brett Jones. “Let people know this is not going to be a retirement job but a legacy…that you can share with your grandkids.”
“A lot of the candidates I’ve worked with I stay in touch with,” he shared.
“I will be leading this recruitment. I want you to trust that I’m the person you’ll be working with,” Rojas said in response to a question by District 4 Councilwoman Deborah Lewis.
“I interviewed 22 people for city manager of Oceanside. I had eight in my portfolio,” he explained. “For the City of Rialto, we had 95 applicants. I might talk to candidates two or three times.”
Asked by District 2 Councilman Refugio LLamas what the three most important things he looks for in a candidate, Rojas responded, “Honesty, integrity and really strong political acumen.”
Asked by District 1 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Kenneth Lambert to give him one good reason for the council to choose his firm, Rojas responded, “as a resident I want my city council members to do their job and not put things on hold for four months” which also responded to the public speaker’s comments from earlier. “I have experience in doing this as far as timing goes…and community outreach.”
“What do you feel is your top marketing strategy?” asked Lambert
“We’ve got to get the word out as far as we can,” Rojas responded. “We want everyone in California to know.” He has his staff do an online search.
“I focus specifically on government sites…ICMA (International City/County Manager’s Association),” he explained. “I also search websites for women and minorities. I do email blasts, LinkedIn.”
Asked by Lambert if he had ever missed a projected timeline Rojas responded, “The only thing will be if you miss the scheduled interviews. It’s about 12 weeks, sometimes 13, due to a council member on vacation and not available.”
Oklahoma-based ProRecruiters was the next firm to be interviewed represented by Liz Brolick.
“I am the main point of contact. I only work on one recruitment at a time…10 per year,” she stated.
In response to a question by Jones, Brolick said she uses LinkedIn and Indeed as they get the greatest responses. “But you can’t just post and pray.”
Asked how many candidates that she has recruited didn’t work out Brolick responded, “98% of the candidates I’ve placed last one, two, three or four years based on the expectations. We guarantee our work if it doesn’t work out.”
“For positions like this, people call me again,” she said in response to a question by Councilwoman Lewis. “If search committees weren’t happy with the results they wouldn’t hire me, again.”
In response to LLamas’ question about the top three qualities she looks for in applicants, Brolick said. “There are four things. The right skills, the right aptitude, the right mindsets and expectations.”
“I get to help candidates…make their dreams come true,” she stated. “I feel really good
“When the city council hires the right city manager it means so much for the community. This position is critical,” Brolick stated.
To Lambert’s question asking her for one good reason the council should hire her, she responded, “I completely come to the table unbiased. The candidates I present will be the best for the position. Because I don’t know your community or what’s going on.”
Merced-based Sectaris Partners was the final firm to be interviewed by the four council members, represented by Adam Cox and Sherri Reusche.
“I was born and raised in Merced,” Cox said. “We started this firm just about a year ago. We love good governance and recruiting is a huge part. We’re both
“I have been a board member for 17 years for a school board,” she said. “So, we have a different lens.”
“We’ve done one successful placement so far,” he said in response to a question by Jones.
“We don’t consider ourselves a traditional recruitment firm,” Cox stated in response to a question by Lewis. “Sherri and I will be leading this search and not be delegating anything.”
“Our entire business model is improving and stabilizing government agencies,” he said in response to a question by LLamas.
“We care and we have a personal stake,” Cox said responding to Lambert’s question about one good reason the council should hire them. “We want to see a highly effective and highly function City of Los Banos.”
“There’s going to be more competition,” he explained due to retirements following COVID. “It’s our job to help you guys to sell the city to the best candidate that we can identify. We don’t want someone showing up in Los Banos and leaving a year or even two years later. You want someone who is going to invest a little bit of time.”
Council Deadlocks, Postpones Decision Until Mayor Present
Mallonee explained the process for the council to choose their favorite firm by scoring them with a one, two or three with the lowest score as their favorite. But before that could occur she recognized Councilman Jones who inidicated he wished to speak.
“I’m just now hearing their interviews,” he said. “I need more time to decide. I’m not ready to vote on it, this evening.”
Lambert then said, “Before we go there, I had a suggestion. Unfortunately, Mayor Tom Faria had to have an emergency, today and I’m sure he would want to be a part of this.”
He then suggested having a special meeting after the regular council meeting on August 25.
“You can always call a special meeting on 24- or 48-hours-notice,” because your next regular meeting isn’t until the end of September,” said City Attorney William Vaughan.
LLamas asked about the process and deal with the vote to choose a firm during today’s meeting.
“If we’re going to get a deadlock in a two-to-two tie…it would be considered no action,” Vaughan explained. “You need to take some action, tonight. A tie vote would be a failed vote with no action.”
Lambert then said “I feel it could come down to a deadlock and that’s why I want Mayor Faria to be part of this. This way there’s no excuses for a tie vote to happen, tonight.”
“Two of the council members already indicated it would be a deadlock,” Lewis then said. “I think this is a stall tactic, because we came here, tonight knowing we were to select one of these agencies and move forward.”
“Because we will sit here, forever trying to get this accomplished,” she continued. “We started this in July and here it is almost September, and nothing has happened. I won’t have any problem with moving this forward to make sure the mayor is on board. But I’m not in favor of moving this out two or three weeks.”
“We are essentially asking the recruiting firm to find a unicorn,” Jones stated. “The next city manager is going to have to love being micromanaged by council…to love being bullied by council…and receive false accusations by staff. Finding a recruiting firm to do all that will be tough.”
I need more time to decide…and it would be nice of all five council members present,” he added.
“Just remember, Councilmember LLamas and Councilmember Lewis, you guys are the cause of why we’re here, in the first place,” Jones added.
LLamas then made a motion “to proceed as indicated by the calendar…and get direction by council.” Lewis seconded it. But the vote failed on a 2-2 tie with Jones and Lambert voting against.
Jones then made a motion to “bring this back at another meeting to make a vote on the recruitment when all five of us are available and have City Manager Wellman to schedule it.” Lambert seconded the motion and it passed 4-0.