Soldotna starts search for new city manager

The city of Soldotna is hiring a new city manager.

The job opening, which was posted to the city’s website on Monday, details the general qualifications that the city is looking for which include a bachelor’s degree and “increasingly relevant work experience” or a master’s degree in public administration, business administation, political science or “other closely related field.” The city is also looking for someone with a “demonstrated ability to supervise staff to achieve organizational goals, knowledge of Alaska statutes related to municipal government and experience with state granting processes and experience in negotiating union contracts.”

The full-time position is listed at a salary range of $110,000 to $132,000 depending on experience. The city manager, under the general supervision of the city council, is repsonsible for “planning, organizing, directing, coordinating and evaluating results of municipal operations,” according to the city’s job summary.

The city manager role has been vacant since mid-October when the Soldotna City Council accepted Mark Dixson’s resignation in an executive session following the Oct. 11 city council meeting. Director of Economic Development and Planning Stephanie Queen has been serving as interim city manager until the role is filled.

The job’s description details the standing of Soldotna and its staff.

“The city is in excellent financial condition and has an annual opearting budget of approximately $12 million,” the description states. “… The current relationship between Mayor/Council and administration is excellent. Key City staff are well qualified and staffing levels are adequare to provide high levels of service to the community.”

At their council meeting on Nov. 8, the council detailed the hiring process and timeline. From Nov. 27 to Jan. 5, the council plans to advertise the position while developing a contract for the new city manager. Applications for the role are due by Jan. 5 at 5 p.m.

“We didn’t want to look at advertising before Thanksgiving,” said Council Member Lisa Parker during the meeting. “And we wanted to give people through the holidays, past Christmas, and that’s why we put it through January 5.”

From there, the council will review applications from Jan. 8 to Jan. 10, according to a timeline approved by the council. Phone interviews and in-person interviews are currently scheduled for the last week in January. The council may elect to cover candidates’ travel expenses, within reason.

“In the normal course of events, the entire council will be involved in the interview process,” said Vice-Mayor Linda Murphy. “It would be most fair if we had a list of questions we ask each candidate and the same person asks the same question at each interview because different people put a different inflection on the same question. That will make it fair for everyone.”

According to Murphy, unless something personal in a candidate’s background precludes it, the interviews will be open to the public.

“The interviews themselves, under the Open Meeting Act, have to be in public unless we want to question someone about something personal in their background that could be detrimental to their reputation,” Murphy said. “And our decision making process, pretty much, has to be made in the open, in an open meeting.”

The city manager is appointed by a majority vote of the city ouncil and, subject to a contract, holds office “at the pleasure of the city council,” according to the job summary.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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