(HELENA) Helena leaders have chosen their top two candidates to become the next city manager.
The Helena City Commission held public interviews with the four finalists for the job Saturday. After deliberations in the afternoon, they selected two to come back Sunday morning for follow-up interviews:
- Ana Cortez, currently the assistant city manager in Yakima, Washington
- Susan Robertson, currently the city administrator for Sun Valley, Idaho
The other two finalists interviewed Saturday were Curtis Calder, the city manager of Elko, Nevada; and Susan Parker, most recently the town administrator for Sunset Beach, North Carolina.
Leaders chose the four finalists from a pool of 116 applicants for the city manager position.
During Saturday’s interviews, the mayor and commissioners asked all four candidates the same set of ten questions. They focused on the candidates’ priorities for the city and on issues like economic development.
“I think we’re looking for some creativity, some originality, what these individuals can bring to Helena to move Helena forward in those areas – affordable housing, improving the downtown area, improving the Sixth Ward,” said Commissioner Rob Farris-Olsen.
They also discussed how the finalists planned to connect with city employees, the commission and the public. Farris-Olsen said it will be important for the new city manager to be someone the commission can create a productive relationship with.
”It’s a partnership,” he said. “We need to be able to come to the manager with ideas, and simultaneously the manager needs to come to us with ideas. And so if we have a strong partnership, we can do a better job at working on all those issues that we’ve focused on.”
On Friday, the finalists had a chance to meet directly with members of the Helena community, as about 70 people attended an open house, hosted by the Helena Citizens’ Council. Commissioners said they were happy to see the community’s interest in the decision.
“I think it’s important that the public feels to not only the commission, but also to the city manager,” said Farris-Olsen. “The city manager is an integral part of Helena.”
After the commission meets with Cortez and Robertson again Sunday morning, they could vote on a motion to open contract negotiations with one of the candidates. Once a contract is reached, it will have to be approved during a later city commission meeting.
“No matter how this turns out, I’m excited about the opportunity Helena has to move forward,” Farris-Olsen said.
Longtime city manager Ron Alles stepped down from the position at the end of June. Dennis Taylor is currently serving as Helena city manager, and will remain in the job until a permanent replacement takes over.