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Helena holds focus group for input on city manager hiring

Posted at 5:37 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 20:49:24-04

HELENA — This week, Helena city leaders began taking public input on what residents want from their next city manager.

The city is preparing to open the hiring process for a permanent city manager. This week, they released a community survey online, where people can weigh in on the skills, traits and experience they want candidates to have.

On Friday morning, several Helena residents also took part in a live focus group held over video conference. The Novak Consulting Group, which is working with the city on the search process, ran the meeting.

“We’re really taking the time on the front end right now to hear from you, what you feel,” said Jenn Reichelt, a manager with the Novak Group. “Obviously the community is directly impacted by this position and leadership at the city.”

Reichelt asked several main questions, including what attributes a city manager candidate would need to be successful in Helena and what goals they want the new manager to focus on.

The people taking part in Friday’s session highlighted some of the traits they want to see in the next manager, from experience in local government to knowledge on economic development and an ability to bring people together.

Consultants plan to start accepting applications for the city manager job next month. Reichelt said the position will remain open for around six weeks before leaders begin narrowing the field of candidates.

Leaders say the input they get from Helena residents now will shape all aspects of the search process.

“If we know that transparency or accountability or implementation, certain things are really important, or affordable housing is a project that’s on the horizon, we can put specific questions about that into the phone screening or into the reference checks,” said Reichelt. “That’s why a lot of this is helpful.”

People who still want to weigh in on the city manager search can take part in a second online focus group, Wednesday at 5 p.m. You can find information on how to join that meeting on the city’s website.

The online community survey will also remain open through Monday, Apr. 27.

The city is looking for a permanent replacement for former city manager Ana Cortez, who was hired in 2018 and left her position this February. Melinda Reed, the former director of the Friendship Center, is currently serving as Helena’s interim city manager.