Cape Girardeau narrowing city manager search from field of 56 applicants

Thursday, April 2, 2009
Doug Leslie tears up while shaking hands with Mayor Jay Knudtson while Leslie receives a standing ovation at his retirement party in February celebrating his time as city manager and working for the city of Cape Girardeau for 19 years. (Elizabeth Dodd)

Cape Girardeau City Councilman John Voss is pleased with the responses received as the city seeks a new manager.

By the March 20 application deadline, Voss said Wednesday, the city received 56 applications from 23 states from people hoping to take over from Doug Leslie, who retired March 1. While the city council conducts the search, assistant city manager Ken Eftink is filling in as interim city manager.

Voss, who represents Ward 1, leads a three-member committee that includes fellow council members Loretta Schneider of Ward 4 and Marcia Ritter of Ward 6. The committee has already identified 12 semifinalists from the applicants and is conducting telephone interviews and reviewing references to narrow the field, Voss said.

As Leslie's retirement approached, Mayor Jay Knudtson said, the decision to undergo a search rather than automatically promote from within the city ranks resulted in a lengthy discussion of the qualities needed in a new city manager.

Under the city charter, the council and mayor have limited powers and the day-to-day control over city operations is handled by the manager. Almost all city hiring decisions, except for the manager's job and municipal judge, are under the manager's direction.

As they ranked qualities, council members determined that they wanted someone who was familiar with a complex city government, had strong credentials for council relations and a shown ability to deal with budget, finance and fiscal management.

In casting their net for applications, the committee advertised in the city manager association newsletter, Internet sites and municipal league newsletters and websites in 23 states. Applications have been received from as far away as Montana and New Mexico, Voss said.

Once the list of semifinalists has been narrowed, Voss said the candidates would be brought to Cape Girardeau individually to meet with council members and city department heads. The finalist selections will be made later this month and the visits should take place in May, Voss said.

There is no set number of finalists that the committee is determined to bring forward for consideration, Voss said.

The council hopes to introduce a new city manager by early June, he said.

While the committee and the city council have identified the qualities they want in a city manager, the final selection will represent a calculated risk, Voss said.

"Even after a two-hour interview and a meet-and-greet, you still have to take a leap of faith," he said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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