FORT WORTH — After meeting with the top two finalists, the Fort Worth City Council is expected to announce its choice for city manager Friday.The council sat down with David Cooke and Penny Postoak Ferguson behind closed doors for about three hours Thursday before entering into negotiations with the “top candidate,” said Mayor Betsy Price. “We had two great candidates. Everybody was pleased with the quality and the answers,” she said. The council, however, still has to vote on hiring the new manager in an open meeting. Cooke, 54, is the retired county manager of Wake County and the director of business development for Mulkey Engineers and Consultants in Raleigh, N.C. “I thought the interviews went just fine. I enjoyed the conversation with the mayor and the council and it felt very comfortable and informal, so I like that,” Cooke said. Ferguson, 45, is deputy county manager of Johnson County, Kan. and has over 20 years of local government experience. “I thought it went really well,” Ferguson said of the interviews. “I’d be excited for the opportunity if they were to choose me. We had some great discussion about the great things the community offers, but also some challenges and how I might be able to help with that.” In addition to the council interviews, the candidates had to complete a writing exercise, give an oral presentation and complete a personality profile. They were also given helicopter tours of the city. “There are so many exciting developments and redevelopments,” said Ferguson. “You can tell there are investments in the community and that the city is also partnering with the private sector.” Cooke, who said Wake County would use helicopters to give tours to rating analysts from places like Fitch, said the aerial view was a helpful way to see the city. “It is a great way of seeing the development of the community, in this case the development of Fort Worth and where there is development potential,” he said. The interviews lasted from 2:30 p.m. until shortly after 5 p.m. The council members deliberated for under an hour. “I think everybody will be pleased if we can make this work and we’re well down the road now,” Price said. The company the city hired to conduct the national search, the Whitney Smith Co., a human resources consulting and executive search firm, has entered negotiations, Price said. The council announced three finalists for the position May 5, but Roderick L. Bremby, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Social Services and a Cabinet secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from 2003 to 2011, notified the city Tuesday that he was withdrawing from consideration. The search began after City Manager Tom Higgins, who has been with the city for nearly 30 years, announced his retirement in October. Higgins, who makes $233,400 a year, agreed to stay on until a successor is chosen.The council tossed out all four of their original finalists in February and started over, re-advertising for the job and bringing in new candidates.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst