Fairfield City Council lays out process to find next city manager

Fairfield City Council directs city staff to request proposals to aid in a nationwide search for its next city manager. FILE
Fairfield City Council directs city staff to request proposals to aid in a nationwide search for its next city manager. FILE

It’s been 20 years since the last time the city of Fairfield conducted an exhaustive search to find a city manager.

On Tuesday, the city will for the first time in two decades seek the assistance of a search firm to find the city’s next top administrator. City attorney Steve Wolterman and the city’s personnel department will draft a request for proposal, or RFP, as suggested by City Councilman Mark Scharringhausen.

“I think it would behoove us to issue an RFP to receive some input from some different firms and see what they would propose to do to assist us in this search,” he said. “I think that will serve us well.”

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But Scharringhausen wanted to make sure while a national search should be conducted, he’d like to see a mix of out-of-state and in-state candidates.

Councilman Bill Woeste said former city manager Art Pizzano was found from a nationwide search and turned out to be “the right guy at the right time. He was a planner and what did we need? We needed a planner. Now we need an administrator.”

Pizzano was hired in 1998 at a time when Fairfield was near its peak in population growth, and over a 17-year tenure, his marquee accomplishment was the Village Green Park & Amphitheater, which opened in 2000. That led to the development of the city’s downtown ― something it didn’t have prior ― which included the Lane Library, Community Arts Center and Justice Center.

Former city manager Mark Wendling was hired a decade ago as the city’s assistant city manager, hired to be Pizzano’s successor upon his retirement, which was at the end of April 2015. On Dec. 11, Wendling unexpectedly submitted his resignation after five-plus years in the job. He was asked to sign a separation agreement two days prior, but Wendling nor city officials are permitted to talk about his departure per the agreement.

Wendling previously told the Journal-News his departure has “been brewing for a while.”

City Councilman Tim Abbott said the city doesn’t need to rush into hiring a new city manager yet, saying what others have also said, it should be a four-to-six-month process.

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“Let’s make sure we hire and put a city manager in place that has all the qualities we need, including a very strong financial background,” said Abbott, who chairs City Council’s finance committee.

Whoever is hired to help find the next city manager, Councilman Terry Senger said he wants the board to be handed “somewhere between 50 and 100 resumes and council will take it from there.”

The city has been contacted by two staffing companies within days of Wendling’s resignation, one of which is Cincinnati-based Management Partners. The other is Chagrin Falls-based Pradco, which wouldn’t aid in the search, said acting City Manager Don Bennett, but could evaluate resumes and candidates. Both companies would have to follow the RFP if they want to be considered, Bennett said.

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