Brunswick hopes to hire manager search firm by April

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council is expected to make a decision by early April on hiring a firm to assist with the search for a town manager.

After interviewing three consulting firms on Monday, most councilors agreed they weren’t ready to make a final decision, citing a desire to receive public feedback and spend more time deliberating the firms’ proposals.

Council Chairman Benet Pols said he would like the council to make a decision by April 7. The council’s town manager search subcommittee would likely meet before then to prepare any recommendations.

The three firms interviewed were Strategic Talent Management of Brunswick, Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Brunswick, and the Augusta-based Maine Municipal Association. They came from an initial list of five firms.

The first proposal was presented by David Barrett of MMA, which has provided search services to several member towns and cities in Maine.

MMA’s $4,900 proposal divides the town manager search into several steps: creating a needs assessment, advertising for the position, creating a rating document, a reviewing of resumes by MMA, a reviewing of resumes by the council, conducting a first round of interviews, completing background checks, conducting a second round of interviews, and providing assistance with negotiating a job offer. 

MMA’s fee does not include the cost or advertising or any reimbursements for candidate expenses. Barret said nothing else would have to be reimbursed.

Though it wasn’t included in his proposal, Barret said he has experience with involving non-elected officials in the search process, too.

When asked about the most important quality in a town manager, Barrett said it’s “the ability to work with a vast range of people on a daily basis and … to help accomplish what the council wants done or help citizens navigate their way through whatever problem they’re having.”

The second proposal was presented by Don Gerrish of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group. Gerrish, who retired in 2008 after working as Brunswick’s town manager for 19 years, has helped Wiscasset, Orono, Rockland and several others with manager searches. He has also served as interim manager for Wiscasset, Bowdoinham, Auburn, Damariscotta and Poland.

Eaton Peabody’s $5,000 proposal involves several steps: developing an overall recruitment strategy, helping the council determine essential skills and experiences it seeks in a town manager, determining the process and deadline, developing a way to involve citizen and staff input, advertising for the position, reviewing all applicants, conducting the first round of interviews, completing background checks, conducting a second round of interviews, and providing assistance with negotiating a job offer.

On top of the proposal’s cost, the town would have to reimburse direct expenses including “mileage, printing and collateral/educational material production, advertising expenses and other reasonable expenses incurred.”

Eaton Peabody will provide a free manager search, “excluding direct expenses associated with the search,” if the selected candidate leaves the job within one year of starting as town manager.

When asked about misconceptions that could arise from hiring the former town manager to help with the search, Gerrish said his only job is to give the council his “professional opinion on who the top candidates are.”

“It’s not only the person who has the most experience or has the best education, but you also want somebody that’s a fit for your community and a fit with you nine people at this point of time,” he said, “and that takes some effort. That’s your call.” 

The third proposal, which provided two options ranging from $3,500 to $10,000, was presented by Art Boulay of Strategic Talent Management. The firm has helped the cities of Westbrook, Lewiston and Auburn in the hiring of several top administrator positions.

STM’s first option, which is estimated to cost between $7,500 and $10,000, involves a planning stage that would fine-tune job requirements based on Brunswick unique needs; a recruitment stage, and an assessment stage, where STM creates a three-part assessment that provides “a clear prediction of success in the position, a clear estimate of risk for the candidate, areas to explore in the final interview (and) development recommendations.”

Then, STM will enter an interview stage, which involves all rounds of interviews, followed by negotiating a job offer. The option’s final stage involves “on-boarding,” in which STI “stays engaged with the (new town manager) for up to four months after hiring.” The proposal says the on-boarding stage will allow STI to assess the new manager and “assure there are no emerging areas of dissatisfaction or miscommunication.”

STM’s low-cost option, estimated between $3,500 and $4,000, is a lighter version of the first option. The firm would have no direct involvement with the recruitment and assessment stages.

 “You have a challenging job in front of you, and no matter who you hire, I would recommend you individually start with your own list of qualities you want (and don’t want) in a town manager,” Boulay said. “… Then have a third column of how you’re going to know if (someone) meets that criteria or not.”

Former Town Manager Gary Brown was dismissed on Feb. 10 by a divided council, after announcing his resignation last December.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.