Two high-profile management jobs with the city of Fairfield are attracting hundreds of applicants.
Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling said 124 people are seeking to be Fairfield’s next assistant city manager, and around 100 more are hoping to become the city’s next parks director.
“I’m really trying to figure out why we’ve gotten so many candidates for these two because in the past we didn’t have these many candidates that were close (to the qualifications),” he said. “There are a significant number of them that are very qualified.”
Because the city is seeking two department managers simultaneously, the city manager contracted an outside firm to help with one of the searches.
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Wendling contracted with Illinois-based GovHR to collect resumes for the parks director position, and narrow the list down to 15 candidates for the city manager to consider. GovHR will conduct phone interviews with those 15 and make a recommendation for a potential finalist list.
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Wendling will also receive the entire list of applicants and will pick three to five finalists for an in-person interview the week of July 15. And just because GovHR makes recommendations doesn’t mean Wendling can’t select a finalist from the pool of applicants not initially chosen as a semi-finalist.
“Obviously if I saw someone that I want them to interview, they would do that,” Wendling said.
Fairfield has conducted the assistant city manager search in-house and will narrow that pool of applicants to three to five finalists for in-person interviews by the end of June.
But while Wendling isn’t sure why there was so much interest in these two jobs, he said it’s a “blessing of resources” and believes there are “a lot of great candidates.”
“I’ve been able to get some great hires (in the past),” he said, “but I just didn’t have the plethora that I’ve got this time.”
Mike McCandlish, owner of a Columbus-based sales recruiting company, said it’s not surprising to see as many people apply for these two high-level jobs in Fairfield.
“The (job) market is great,” he said. “People are looking, everybody’s looking. There’s just that real consumer confidence in the air.”
McCandlish, who handles more sales recruiting but is familiar with public sector recruiting, said an assistant city manager and parks director jobs are desirable, but questions as to how many are really qualified.
“Normally 5 to 10 percent of the people responding to the posting to one of our ads are qualified,” said McCandlish. “I would be shocked if more than 15 percent (for Fairfield’s two jobs) are qualified.
These will be the fifth and sixth department managers Wending has hired since becoming city manager in 2015. Wendling hired now former assistant city manager Greg Preece, who left to work for Oakland, Calif., Public Utilities Director Adam Sackenheim, Development Director Greg Kathman and Police Chief Steve Maynard.
Kathman and Maynard were internal hires, and Wendling said there is one internal applicant for the assistant city manager position.
Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller said both positions are critical for the city heading into the future. The assistant city manager has historically handled the lion’s share of all union negotiations for the city’s five bargaining units, and the person in that position “needs to understand the process, wants to be fair and basically knows what they’re doing.”
Also, he said the assistant city manager “is the right-hand person for the city manager, so we need someone to work very well with Mark,” Miller said.
But the parks director will be a defining hire for Wendling.
The city is in the midst of long-term planning for its multiple parks. A redevelopment of Harbin Park is in the beginning stages, as well as expansion and development of Marsh Park. Later this year the city will build a dog park, and it is consistently building on its bike trail system.
“There’s a lot on the horizon. The person that comes in will definitely have a full plate,” Miller said.