FARRELL – Despite objections, Farrell City Council voted last week to hire a consulting firm to help find a replacement for Manager Mike Ceci, who is stepping down after nine years in the position.
The vote was 5 to 2, with council members Kimberly Doss and Dan Dragicevich dissenting.
Farrell’s current manager, Mike Ceci, will serve the city through February. He said family issues have caused him to be unable to work beyond that time.
“It’s been an honor of a lifetime to do this job,” Ceci said. “It’s been great to be part of such a tight-knit community.”
Council approved a contract with the Novak Consulting Group, which was the city’s Act 47 coordinator. The company drew up a proposal that outlines how it will assist the city’s search.
“Their plan is to meet with council in October and develop what (council members) believe to be an ideal candidate,” Ceci told council. “So you can help, so they can begin creating that post and posting that for you.”
Novak’s plan, which will cost Farrell $20,000, calls for submitting about 20 candidates for city council to interview by January or February.
The first step will be a needs assessment and development of a candidate profile. The second is to recruit and screen applicants, and the third is to support city officials in the interview and the selection process.
But not all council members agreed with hiring the firm.
“I just think that we should look at someone local,” Doss said. “Our biggest thing is the people from Farrell, they want someone who lives in Farrell to be the city manager. There’s a lot of people in Farrell that have a degree, that have the ability, and if they’re properly trained, they can do it.”
Doss was also opposed to spending $20,000 for Novak’s services.
“The only reason I’m saying this is because we always say about money. It’s about spending money,” Doss said. “We interviewed for Ceci’s position – we went through CareerLink. We didn’t spend $20,000.”
Mayor Olive McKeithan said the city wasn’t prepared the last time it hired a manager.
“We didn’t have a proposal, we didn’t have a plan, we didn’t have anything,” McKeithan said. “We have about 16 projects going on that we really need to have someone that knows what they’re doing.”
McKeithan said council and the mayor will still interview candidates.
“We still get to pick,” she said. “And anybody can apply.”
Councilman Bob Burich said he believes the city should go through the process.
“We can hire the best qualified individual,” Burich said. “If they’re from Farrell, God bless.”
Councilman Stephen Bennefield said he thinks council needs the help.
“It looks like (Novak) really laid out the process very well,” Bennefield said. “If you look through the document that they provided, and the timeline they provided looks like they could have people in front of us that are qualified within two months to three months.”
Ceci said the city plans on holding a special work session meeting before council’s Oct. 28 meeting to work with the consultants on beginning the process.
He credited city employees for Farrell’s success, including emerging from Act 47 distressed community status, during his tenure as city manager.
“I’m proud of the employees,” Ceci said. “I don’t think people understand what gets done with a minimal staff – it’s amazing.”
Ceci said he will remember the details of his job when he leaves.
“The park and the library – that you take with you,” Ceci said. “It’s the small things and that’s what’s important.”
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