Keokuk has narrowed the field in its search for a new city administrator. The 5 finalists are expected to be in the city June 8-9 for their official interviews.
Brent Hinson with Hinson Consulting said 27 people applied to replace Aaron Burnett, who is stepping down as Keokuk City Administrator next month to take the same job in Mason City, Iowa. Hinson, whose firm is leading the search process, said he’s not surprised by the response.
“We’ve been in… as we discussed with the council in the first meeting, a real candidates’ market,” said Hinson. “There have been [fewer] qualified candidates out there then we have seen at different points in the last few years.
“So we were very happy with 27 [applicants] and we were especially pleased with the quality that we had in that group.”
Hinson, who is the City Administrator in Washington, Iowa, said Keokuk received applications from throughout the Midwest including Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Nebraska.
He said his firm narrowed the list of 27 to 9 semi-finalists, based on education, work experience, online articles, and professional reputation.
The resumes of the 9 semi-finalists were presented to the Keokuk City Council Thursday night. Aldermen reviewed them with Hinson behind closed doors for more than 90 minutes before choosing 5 finalists and 1 alternate.
“You have candidates that have a great, great deal of city administrator experience and you have candidates that have just a couple of years,” said Hinson. “But they might have a really strong background in economic development or other areas so it’s a nice variety for the council.”
Hinson is responsible for calling the 5 finalists and inviting them to Keokuk June 8-9. He said he will also call the alternate, explaining that person would be invited if one of the finalists backs out.
The city chose not to release the names of the finalists after the meeting Thursday night. Instead, it said it expects to make the names public about a week before the interviews.
“That will be up to the city,” said Hinson. “We will be getting releases from all of the candidates to release their name and their current position. That will be up to the city to determine when to release the names. We, as city administrators, work in the public sphere, we are accountable to the public, we are answerable to the public, and so your name does get released in searches like this.”
When the finalists are in town, they will receive a tour of the city from the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce and will participate at a public reception either at the historic river-front train depot or a shelter house in Victory Park.
Hinson said the actual interviews would be done “panel-style.” The city will convene four panels consisting of aldermen, city staff, department heads, and a select few members of the general public including representatives of the Chamber, Main Street Keokuk, and the Keokuk School District.
Each panel will be given a specific set of questions to ask the candidates. The interviews will take place behind closed doors in the Keokuk Public Library and at City Hall.
Hinson said the city council will meet after the interviews are finished on June 9 to try to select a top candidate. He said contract negotiations would get underway soon after.
The goal is for the city council to sign an employment contract by June 21, which is one day before Burnett leaves for Mason City.