CHAMPAIGN — City officials this week will launch an electronic survey, a hot line phone number and offer a mail-in survey to ask citizens what qualities they would like to see in their next city manager.
City staff will also convene three informal public input sessions next week in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
They plan to gather that public input and offer it to the city council for discussion as council members and city administrators begin to write a job profile for the city manager who will replace longtime administrator Steve Carter at the end of March 2013.
Carter announced his retirement earlier this month. By his last day, he will have been Champaign's top administrative official for more than 28 years.
Carter was hired in 1985 after city officials paid a search firm $12,000 to help find him, but this time, city council members believe they can do most of the recruitment with existing city staff.
Officials estimate that hiring a search firm to do the work could cost anywhere between $25,000 and $40,000.
During three public input sessions on Nov. 8 and Nov. 10, city officials will ask attendees to offer their suggestions on what they believe would make a good city manager.
Those questions could include what residents believe are the biggest issues currently facing the city and what residents foresee being issues years from now. They would also be asked what management style and job experience an ideal candidate might possess.
Joan Walls, deputy city manager for community relations, said she expects the meetings to be an "open dialogue" and to be informal.
She said each session could last about an hour.
The city council could have a job profile finalized by the end of November.
In a more tentative schedule, city officials think they will advertise the position during December, have finalists selected and interviewed in January or early February and a new city manager announced by Feb. 15.
The new employee might start work on March 25.
City council members signed off on the public input gathering process during a meeting on Tuesday night.
Council member Michael La Due said he would be hard-pressed to come up with a more comprehensive input-gathering method.
Council member Will Kyles agreed.
"The ability to communicate is great," Kyles said.
Opportunities for input on city manager
Date Activity Location/TimeNov. 2-15 Electronic survey launched http://www.ci.champaign.il.us  Hot line number activated 217-403-8848 Mail-in advertisement Nov. 8 Two input gathering sessionsCity Council Chambers, noon, 7 p.m.Nov. 10 One input gathering sessionCity Council Chambers, 10 a.m.Nov. 19 Special city council meeting Illinois Terminal, 5 p.m.Nov. 27 City council study session City Council Chambers, 7 p.m.