Public interviews quite revealing
Let the sun shine all the way through Champaign's search for a new city manager.
City officials are off to a commendable start in their effort to replacing retiring Champaign city manager Steve Carter.
After 28 years on the job and near-universal praise for his work, Carter is stepping down at the end of March. It's never easy to fill such an important position, and it will be doubly difficult this time because Carter has been so successful here.
So far, council members have taken a public approach as they formalize a plan to find Carter's successor. Just Tuesday, the council decided that it would review the applications from in-house candidates to replace Carter. After that process is complete, depending on the results, council members will decide whether to seek additional candidates through a nationwide search.
That's a sensible approach. But, either way, finalists for the post should participate in public interviews. It's our view that the more scrutiny the finalists receive the better the opportunity to make the best choice.
Just such public interviews were part of the process that led to the hiring of new Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb. The questioning of the group of police chief finalists was not only interesting but also instructive as to the relative merits of the candidates.
Indeed, it's fair to say that the interviews were so illuminating that it was easy to identify the strongest of the five finalists.
There is no doubt that hiring, in any field, is a difficult business. Carefully conducted searches can lead both to outstanding and disastrous hires.
Carter came to Champaign after a national search, but so have other less successful administrators hired for important city jobs. Two of the best police chiefs Champaign has had, Don Carter and James Luecking, were internal candidates. Indeed, Luecking was hired after a new chief, brought on after a national search, was summarily dismissed.
So there's no guarantee either way. But one safeguard to build into the process is an open interview of the finalists, whether they're internal or external.