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Keokuk Starts Search for City Administrator

The Keokuk City Council is gradually making progress toward the hiring of a city administrator, after not having someone in that position for seven years.

The city received proposals from three search firms interested in helping it identify potential candidates.

  • Slavin Management Consultants - Mesa, Az
  • Ray & Associates - Cedar Rapids, Ia
  • Callahan Municipal Consultants - Anamosa, Ia

Mayor Tom Marion said based on the proposals, Keokuk will have to spend $12,000 - $15,000 to hire a search firm.  He said that would include associated expenses for travel, mileage etc.
The city council told him to invite the two Iowa-based firms to Keokuk in the coming weeks.

"Get some input from those individuals (about) what they plan and get some information about part-time mayors, how do they do that," said Marion.  "What are we looking for in an administrator and basically get some background."

Marion said his hope is that one firm will be able to meet with the city council on Thursday, Feb. 12 with the other arriving on Thursday, Feb. 19.

The two firms are quite familiar with southeast Iowa.  Ray & Associates handles contract negotiations for most of the local school districts, counties, and cities (including Keokuk) while Callahan led the searches for new city managers in Fairfield and Fort Madison last year.

The city council hopes to use the meetings with the search firms to establish a job description for the position.  At this point, the duties of the city administrator have not been formally defined, given the city's current administrative structure which includes:

  • Mayor (Full Time)
  • City Clerk/Administrative Assistant
  • Finance Director
  • Payroll/Benefits Clerk
  • Accounts Payable/Receivable

Marion said various aspects of those positions could be handled by the City Administrator, especially with some personnel changes possible in the coming months/years.
"There are some who are talking retirement," said Marion.  "I don't know when for sure.  There will be some money freed up if certain people do retire."

Marion did not mention money by accident, as that appears to be the biggest hurdle to the hiring.

3rd Ward Alderman Ron Payne said he supports the idea of a city administrator.  But he said the city needs to identify a funding source for the search firm and the position before it moves too far along.

"I would hate to go through this process and find out we cannot afford this person," said Payne.

Mayor Tom Marion said he would have the city's finance director prepare a proposal as to where the city would find the money to pay for a city administrator.

The city council has placed a tight timeframe on itself.

Aldermen would like to have the position filled this summer so candidates running for mayor in November would know if the position would be full or part time.

Marion said the search firms presented timelines that would meet that goal.

It's been seven years since Keokuk had a city administrator.  The city's first, Odis Jones, left in February 2008, after just three months on the job to take a job with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.