Commissioners pick firm for county manager search


Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:01 p.m.

The Alachua County Commission moved forward with plans to hire a new county manager Tuesday when it selected a search firm it wants to hire to find job candidates.

At its quarterly retreat last week, commissioners decided to interview the Mercer Group of Atlanta, Ralph Andersen and Associates of Rocklin, Calif., and Bob Murray and Associates, which has offices in Tallahassee and Roseville, Calif., at Tuesday's meeting.

Commissioners chose Bob Murray and Associates as their first pick and directed county staff to negotiate an agreement with the firm.

Commissioner Mike Byerly said the breadth and regional diversity of the firms' experience was important because their ability to compile a geographically diverse and representative pool of applicants is key.

Commissioner Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson said one way to save money might be to limit the scope of the firm's services, such as by handling contract negotiations with the successful candidate without the company's input.

"The main thing we want is a shortlist of good candidates with solid background checks," he said. "Other than that, all the rest of the stuff is just fluff."

Acting County Manager Richard Drummond said commissioners could expect to meet with the firm in January to discuss the qualities they're looking for in the next county manager.

S. Renee Narloch, vice president for the winning firm's Southeast and mid-Atlantic region and director of its East Coast office in Tallahassee, did a video interview with the commission through Skype, an online video chat service.

Bob Murray and Associates' anticipated fee is $16,500, with additional expenses of up to $7,500 for things like travel and advertising costs. Travel expenses for interviews with top candidates are separate from those estimates, Narloch said.

She will do preliminary interviews with 10 to 12 candidates after conducting a recruitment search. About seven of those will likely be deemed strong candidates, and the commission may wish to personally interview some or all of them, Narloch said.

During her discussions with possible recruits, she said she would determine potential roadblocks that could prevent them from accepting the position if offered. Such challenges could include a candidate whose spouse already has a good job and thus needs to consider the market in this area.

"Those are very real issues for people who are considering making a change," she said. "I cover those issues then to know what we're looking at with each candidate that we do move forward..."

She encouraged that the county conduct a nationwide search for potential recruits, which could locate candidates who have lived or worked in Florida but have also broadened their experience through jobs in other states and who may have different ideas to bring to the position. The firm contacts several references for each candidate, including people he or she has reported to and employees who have worked under his or her leadership.

Bob Murray and Associates, as well as the other firms interviewed Tuesday, did not exceed the county's initial price estimate for the recruiting search. County staff anticipated between $30,000 and $35,000 for all expenses, including search firm fees and candidate travel. The county doesn't know yet how much it will cost to bring in potential recruits for interviews.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 352-338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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