Citizens of Sharon on Thursday and Friday get a chance to meet the three men who are in the running to become the city’s first professional manager.

Committee President Ed Palanski urged people to come to the meetings.

“It’s an opportunity to get up close and personal” with the candidates, Palanski said. He noted that the whole impetus for citizens passing the home rule charter in November 2007 was to get more public participation in government.

The search committee, which includes all members of the home rule transition team and city council, has narrowed down the field of 44 applicants to three men they say are the best for the job.

Folks can see the candidates — all of whom are from the Midwest and possess master’s degrees in public administration — and hear them talk about the city’s move to a home rule charter with a hired manager instead of a mayor later this week.

Two of the candidates, Eric Strahl of Menominee, Mich., and Michael Uskiewicz of Port Huron, Mich., will be at the city building from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

The third, Richard Downey of Rock Falls, Ill., will be there from noon to 1 p.m. Friday (he was unable to attend the Thursday meeting because of another commitment).

The public reception is another way for city officials to evaluate the candidates. There will be a meet-and-greet the first half hour of each event.

“It’s designed to give the search committee a chance to observe them interacting with citizens,” Palanski said, adding that it is a “significant and important part of the job.”

Each candidate will have 10 minutes to give a presentation on the assigned topic, “What can we expect in the transition to a city manager,” Palanski said.

He said that each of the three has been the first city manager for a municipality at some point in his career.

Strahl has 26 years experience, Uskiewicz has 16 years and Downey has nine years experience in municipal management, Palanski said. Downey is also accredited by the International City/County Manager Association and by the Society for Human Resources.

There will be no question-and-answer time between the public and the candidates at the meetings, Palanski said, because they thought it would be unfair to turn it into a campaign-type event.

“This is only the next step,” Palanski said. “It may or may not result in someone being hired by council. Everyone’s under agreement that we’re not going to pick somebody just to get this done. We want to do it right.”

Committee member and council Vice President Frank Connelly said that council hopes to vote on hiring someone prior to the regular Oct. 15 meeting and may call a special meeting to do so.

He said the salary of the manager would be negotiated.

Palanski said the committee is still conducting background checks on the candidates and will take applications “until we have a city manager sitting behind a desk.”

They received resumes from Alaska to Florida and southern California to Maine, Palanski said.

The three whom they on Monday voted to recommend to council for the job went through several phone and face-to-face interviews.

Palanski said that the contenders have met with the mayor, department heads and members of the Economic and Community Development Commission. They’ve also seen the city’s budget and the Early Intervention Program report done several years ago to assess the city’s status.

On Friday, they’ll meet with the committee again for a more extensive interview and have a chance to ask more questions of their own, Palanski said.

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