Fort Worth to start search over for city manager

02/25/2014 5:54 PM

02/25/2014 10:24 PM

The Fort Worth City Council decided Tuesday that none of the four finalists for the city manager position were right for the job and announced that they are starting the search over.

“They were all very strong professionals and we really appreciate the time they took, but we didn’t feel like any of them were the perfect fit for Fort Worth,” said Mayor Betsy Price.

The council started interviewing the candidates at 9 a.m., broke for lunch and continued interviewing through the afternoon. They deliberated in executive session for about an hour after the interviews, finishing shortly before 5 p.m.

The council will meet in executive session March 4 with the Whitney Smith Co., a human resources consulting and executive search firm, to rework a time line for the search, Price said.

“This is a critical decision for the city of Fort Worth and probably the most difficult decision we will make as a council and we have to get it right and it needs to be the perfect match for Fort Worth,” Price said.

The city started the search after Fort Worth City Manager Tom Higgins, who has been with the city for nearly 30 years, announced his retirement in October.

Higgins, who makes $233,400, agreed to stay on until a replacement is found.

The four finalists

Thirty-five applicants were reviewed by the search firm and 15 names were submitted to the council. Seven candidates were brought to Fort Worth for interviews and the four finalists that were in town Tuesday were culled from that list.

The four finalists were: Milton R. Dohoney Jr., former city manager in Cincinnati; Mark McDaniel, city manager in Tyler; Craig Malin, city administrator in Davenport, Iowa; and Joyce Wilson, city manager in El Paso.

McDaniel, 53, became city manager of Tyler in 2008 and instituted what is known as the Lean Six Sigma program in 2010 to eliminate waste and find efficiencies to save millions. Fort Worth also adopted the program in 2013.

“If there is no consensus, there is no consensus,” McDaniel said of the council’s decision. “I’m not sure what the next step would be, but I would not want myself or a colleague to go into a situation where there is not a consensus with the council.”

Malin, 51, is the longest-serving city administrator for Davenport, having been with the city since 2001 and is known for improving technology and customer satisfaction in his tenure. But Malin and the city were involved in a messy lawsuit regarding a permit for a strip club.

“I wish them all the best,” Malin said of the council.

Dohoney, 58, served Cincinnati’s city manager for seven years and is credited with bringing economic development and jobs to a city in decline while maintaining tight budgets. He worked on a new streetcar project and a plan to lease the city’s parking. Both projects, however, were unpopular with the newly-elected mayor and Dohoney announced his resignation in November.

Wilson, 61, over nine years transitioned El Paso to a city manager form of government, drafted fiscally sound budgets and revived a failing public transit system. But she is probably best known for a series of emails in 2012 when she called residents opposing a city project “crazies” and said certain city council representatives against the project had the “beginnings of dementia.”

Dohoney and Wilson could not be reached for a comment.

Price would not speak on the specific candidates.

“Just none of them were the perfect blend of what we need here in Fort Worth,” she said.

Price said the city is looking for a city manager who is fiscally responsible, knowledgeable about pension reforms and is tech savvy.

The search for a city manager

The decision to start over comes after Price said in a previous interview of the candidates:

“They are all excellent candidates, and I think everybody is excited about them all. Everybody brings a little bit different skill set, and we continue to want the very best candidate for Fort Worth.”

Council members were not available for comment. Councilwoman Gyna Bivens said the council agreed to make Price the spokeswoman for the city manager search.

“This is just part of the process. We have been saying all along it is a fairly fluid process and this is just part of it,” Price said.

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