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City expands efforts to hear community feedback in City Manager selection

Charlottesville hopes to have a new City Manager early next year

<p>Interim City Manager Mike Murphy was appointed earlier this year after previously serving as an assistant City Manager for the City of Charlottesville.&nbsp;</p>

Interim City Manager Mike Murphy was appointed earlier this year after previously serving as an assistant City Manager for the City of Charlottesville. 

Charlottesville City Council received community feedback at its meeting Monday as part of its ongoing public engagement process for the City Manager selection process. Interim City Manager Mike Murphy was appointed in late July, and a permanent manager is set to be selected in January or February of 2019. 

Mayor Nikayuh Walker shared the measures the Council has already taken to hear the public’s thoughts on what they want in a city manager — including a survey, community dinners and City employee lunches.

“We’re really trying to reach as many people as possible,” Walker said. “I know the last survey that we did, Dr. [Wes] Bellamy and I, we were out door to door. It’s hard to do all of the work we have to do … And, you know, get door to door, but we are attempting in every way we can that we are hearing voices. And the survey, we are actually reading them. We are taking copious notes when we are in these meetings.”

The City has chosen to use the private company Narloch and Associates to search for candidates and give pointers on the community feedback and selection process. 

Renée Narhloch of Narloch and Associates said the group recommends the City privately review the first round of applications, with consideration of the feedback given in a community survey that Council had already dispersed. 

After selecting finalists, Narloch proposed that Council give opportunities for these individuals to interact with the City by holding meet and greets with community members and meetings with City department heads. Narloch also said that an external panel of community members could be useful to include in the final decision process.

Narloch remained at the Council meeting to get feedback from community members there, along with the ongoing surveys and luncheons produced by Council.

“What I’m hoping to do is have a picture painted for me by this input to see what the ideal candidate looks like,” Narhloch said. “It was important for us to get a handle on and understand some of the issues and challenges that are currently facing the City of Charlottesville, again so we can match up skill sets and match up candidates that will come in and best serve the City.”

Narloch assured the community that the feedback given by them is not merely for show but will truly be used in the processing of selecting the next city manager.

“We are listening,” Narloch said. “We’re on a listening tour here. It’s important for us to get a 360 on this city to really understand what is going to take in a leadership role here to move you forward.”

Narloch said that her firm was conducting their search on the national level, but understood the importance of finding a person with ties to Charlottesville. 

Don Gathers, a co-founder of the Charlottesville chapter of Black Lives Matter and a member of the City’s Police Civilian Review Board, said he hoped the Council would strongly consider individuals from Charlottesville in the selection among the national search.

“I think it’s equally as important that you look within, internally, because I think we do have some very viable people who could do a magnificent job in that particular position if given the opportunity,” Gathers said. “I think that someone who is already invested in the City, if such a person exists, also should be considered … The new city manager, whoever that person he or she may be, will have to be a bridge builder because once again there is a huge lack of trust between the communities that you search and the leadership that sits in these positions.”

City resident Mary Carey said that her most important qualification for City Manager is past experience.

“I think the new City Manager should be able to come to Charlottesville with some experience —  like maybe experience from another place where he has been or she has been City Manager for more than five years to know how to run a city with a lot of people with a lot of problems,” Carey said. “Because that’s what Charlottesville is. It’s a lot of problems for low income people and people of color.”

Walker stressed, however, that normal qualifications, like experience in the field and ties to the community, are not the only thing that is needed in a City Manager. 

“We’re going to have to have a pretty dynamic person who is going to have experience that is going to extend beyond just simply running a city somewhere else,” Walker said. “So, I hope when you’re completing the surveys, when you are sending the emails, calling us… I want you all to really push, challenge ourselves.”


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