One week after accepting the resignation of its administrator, the city has an interim and a tentative plan for recruiting a permanent one.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, planning and economic development director Adam Sayre signed a contract to take the position for up to six months, effective immediately. During a special meeting the night before, the council approved the contract, which features a raise to $115,000, which would amount to an additional $15,000 over the full six months.
The deal is not likely to go to its full term, as the council earlier in the evening expressed hope that the hiring process will be significantly faster than the four-month, two-round grind the city went through in 2016 before hiring Jeff Mikorski, who resigned last week. While it did not approve any specifics about the recruitment process, there was general agreement it will use the services of the city’s new human resources coordinator, rather than the consultant group that had been involved in every administrator hiring since 1996.
Those details are expected to be set Monday, Feb. 25, at the council’s regular meeting. Alders were asked to provide a list of preferences for the position, including desired attributes and skills, style, experience or anything else that comes to mind, regardless of whether it should be in the initial job posting or brought up later.
New HR coordinator Mitchell Weckerly said he will take that information and build a recruitment plan for the council to approve and update the job description.
“Don’t be afraid to get to detail of level or scope of responsibility,” he told them. “There’s different phases where we can work that in.”
It will be the first major start-to-finish project for Weckerly, who started in the new position in December after coming from the state Department of Transportation.
Weckerly told alders he’ll share the job posting in a variety of media, including state job sites, more common job sites such as Indeed.com and social media “within a couple of days” of the plan being approved. He suggested the hiring process could include multiple panel interviews and screening steps.
One of the longest discussion points was about how long the job posting should be open, with the council debating the value of attracting more candidates against lengthening the process.
Weckerly pointed out that the length of the hiring process can put governments “at a disadvantage” to the private sector, causing motivated and ready early applicants to drop out, and the general preference seemed to be to cap it around 30 days.
In prior years, finalists for the administrator position would spend two days interviewing, including a meet-and-greet social and visits or tours with department heads, and alders seemed comfortable with that setup.
The last hiring process was longer than usual, however, when alders (and some department heads) rejected the first round of applicants and reopened the position. The latter part of the process also happened to be when the Personnel committee chair, Elizabeth Doyle, was out of state for the summer.
“I did personally feel like it was a little slow last time,” Mayor Luke Diaz said.
Verona has had four administrators since 1996, and before that, it went 17 years without such a position between the terms of Clarence Motz and Larry Saeger. Mikorski’s resignation, at the request of the council and involving a six-month severance package on his $137,111 salary, marks the second time the city has asked an administrator to leave in a decade, following the resignation of Shawn Murphy in 2009.
Diaz spoke with Sayre about taking the interim tag last week, and he told the Press after the meeting Monday that Sayre had agreed about holding an open hiring process, rather than waiting to see if he does well in the role and then hiring without a search.
“He said that was right for the city,” Diaz said. “If we hadn’t decided (to do so), he was going to tell us to do an open hiring process.”
Sayre has been Verona’s planning and development director since February 2013, when he came here from a similar position in Oconomowoc.
The contract requires Sayre to give a 30-day notice if he wishes to return to his original duties, and if the city wishes to initiate that move, it would require a decision by the council in a noticed meeting, which likely would happen when the council hires a permanent administrator. The council discussed the choice of Sayre and the contract terms in closed session for about 15 minutes.
Though Mikorski is no longer in the office and hasn’t been since he signed the severance contract Feb. 5, he retains the title of director of administrative services until April 5, for which he’s expected to be available to answer questions staff have, assist with tasks and help with the transition as needed.