PORTLAND – The City Council is planning to hire a new city manager by July, and could name an interim chief executive as early as next week, said Mayor Nicholas Mavodones.

Mavodones said he has spoken to several councilors about a process that would include public input at the beginning, a nationwide search with help from a consultant, and a chance for residents to meet the finalists for the job before the council makes its decision.

Mavodones said he wants residents to suggest qualities the council should look for as it seeks a replacement for Joe Gray, who plans to retire in February after more than 10 years as city manager.

He said residents also could weigh in after meeting the finalists, but he hasn’t determined exactly how to set up a way for Portlanders to meet the finalists or how to get public input.

Any applicant for the job should be prepared for his or her name to be made public if he or she becomes a finalist, he said.

The council will likely pick an interim manager early next month. Gray’s last day is scheduled to be Feb. 11, so that would allow several weeks for a transition.

After that, the council will probably pick a consultant to help seek applicants and manage the process. Mavodones said he expects the job to draw applicants from around the country.

“Portland is a fantastic city, and I think there will be a lot of interest,” he said.

July is a reasonable goal for making a final decision, he said.

“We don’t want to rush it and set an artificial deadline, but at the same time, we don’t want it to languish,” Mavodones said. “Hiring a city manager is one of the most important decisions that a city council makes, and we want to make sure we do it the right way.”

Mavodones noted that if a new city manager is picked by July, he or she will have time to settle in before Portland residents start electing a full-time mayor with a four-year term of office.

Since the 1920s, the City Council has chosen one of its members to serve a one-year term as mayor in a part-time capacity. Voters changed that in November by adopting a change to the city charter establishing a popularly elected mayor.

That means the new city manager and the mayor who is elected next November will have to forge a working relationship that’s different from what has evolved since the city dropped its popular election of a mayor in 1923.

However that relationship develops, it’s likely to be less awkward than one about 30 years ago.

Tom Valleau, now retired, held various positions with the city. He remembers when A.J. Wilson was manager and newly elected Mayor Matthew Barron decided that his job should include much closer scrutiny of that position.

“Matty Barron decided to put a desk in the city manager’s outer office, immediately adjacent to the city manager’s (office) doorway,” said Valleau, who was deputy city manager at the time.

“Mayor Barron would come to City Hall and he would sit there. As I recall, his intention was to see the comings and goings of the city manager’s office.”

The idea apparently sounded more interesting than it proved to be in practice.

Barron “lost interest in it,” Valleau said. “It might have gone on for a week.”

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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