Shawnee council identifies priorities in city manager search, will seek long-term commitment and econ dev skills

The Shawnee council said it’s looking for someone who will take the time to get to know the city’s unique culture.

By Jerry LaMartina

The Shawnee City Council took a deeper dive Monday night into the process of recruiting a new city manager, guided by Springsted | Waters Executive Recruitment.

Springsted Senior Vice President Art Davis gave a presentation to the council and led its members through a question and answer session to get thoughts on the most important characteristics they wanted in a new city manager.

Shawnee Council President Matt Zimmerman. Photo courtesy city of Shawnee.

Davis asked the council several questions designed to gauge what skills and experience should be priorities in seeking candidates, and what projects would be at the top of the city’s list in the coming years.

Council members expressed agreement on many of their answers, saying they would be seeking a new manager who would:

  • Advocate for economic development
  • Have financial management expertise, including budget preparation and analysis, and a penchant for saving the city money
  • Focus on capital improvements
  • Embrace culture of change
  • Understand the city’s east-west divide
  • Build trust of council and staff
  • Embrace council’s vision based on what residents say they want
  • Stay abreast of transportation developments, the Community Center and the “valley of champions” sports fields in western Shawnee
  • Have at least 10 to 15 years’ experience as city manager of a city comparable to Shawnee’s size — “successful experience,” Mayor Michelle Distler emphasized.
  • Have a master’s degree in public administration
  • Learn and embrace Shawnee’s history, culture, diversity and events
  • Have strong management skills without micromanagement or dictatorial style
  • Keep open lines of communication and accessibility with and among council and staff
  • Maintain high community visibility and engagement with civic organizations
  • Maintain knowledge of ongoing county and state legislative issues that could affect Shawnee
  • Analyze strategic effects
  • Make a commitment to stay in the job for a long term
  • Have the strength to tell the council when it’s taking a wrong path

The council unanimously chose Springsted at its Feb. 12 meeting to conduct a search for a new city manager, for a fee of $24,500 and with a target of the week of May 7 for the city to make an offer to a candidate.

Former City Manager Carol Gonzales submitted her resignation letter to Mayor Michelle Distler on Oct. 9, saying she had accepted a job as director of finance and administration for the Mid-America Regional Council. Gonzales had worked on the city’s staff since 1998 and was named as city manager in 2005. Her final day as city manager was Nov. 15.

The council appointed Vicki Charlesworth as interim city manager on Nov. 6, and she started the job Nov. 16. Charlesworth is not a candidate for the permanent city manager job.

Early in Monday’s meeting, Davis — a Kansas City-area native who was Lee’s Summit’s city manager for six years — stressed the importance for any city council “of treating each other with civility and respect in your council meetings, as well as the interaction with staff and the community.” Candidates can be put off by “confrontational interaction” among a council, he said, which could deter them from accepting a job offer.

Matt Zimmerman, Ward 1 councilman and council president, agreed.

“It’s as much their assessment of us as it is ours of them,” he said, “so it’s good to keep that in mind as we go forward with the process.”

A proposed timeline for the search process is below: