Champaign planning qualifications for next city manager

CHAMPAIGN — City council members on Monday night began building a profile of what they want to see in the city manager who will replace the retiring Steve Carter in March.

Essentially, they want somebody whose goals will mesh with the community's but who is going to push them to generate new ideas. They want a city manager with a master's degree and would prefer someone who is credentialed by a professional organization.

They want somebody who has experience working with a multimillion-dollar budget and who has been successful in aggressive collective-bargaining environments.

They want somebody who understands that the city council is more of a deliberative rather than a political body.

If this sounds like a job ad, that's because it is. All the ideas that city council members spouted on Monday night will go into the advertisement as city officials begin collecting applications for the job.

City administrators will write the profile during the next few days and bring a final draft to council on Nov. 27 for approval before it's published.

"I think what we're really looking for is that rarest of all critters, a good manager — a really good manager," said council member Marci Dodds.

They were presented with 15 pages' worth of public input on what the 40 citizens who participated want out of their next city manager, and council members generally agreed that maintaining core services like police, fire and public works will be one of the biggest challenges facing the next city manager.

And council member Michael La Due said the ideal candidate would be interested in working toward solutions instead of simply trying to get a majority of city council members to agree with him or her.

"We need someone who understands that this council ... is truly a deliberative body," La Due said. "The city manager is a partner in the deliberative process."

Mayor Don Gerard said it will be important for that person to understand the dynamic of governing a community with so many different government agencies, like the city of Urbana and the University of Illinois.

He said the ideal candidate would be "somebody who's really ready to devote a substantial amount of time and effort to working with other governmental entities."

Last month, Carter announced that he will retire at the end of March 2013. That will cap a 28-year tenure for him as Champaign's city manager — a significantly long time considering that the average length of employment for his three predecessors was about nine years.

Council members are hoping that the next city manager would fall in love with the area and end up staying a similar amount of time.

"I want somebody who's coming here and saying, 'I want to be here for 20 years,'" said council member Deborah Frank Feinen.

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