Camas starts search for city administrator

City councilors want firm with offices in Portland, Seattle to lead recruitment

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Pete Capell Camas City Administrator

City leaders in Camas on Monday selected a firm to search for a new city administrator to replace outgoing City Administrator Pete Capell.

Capell, 63, who has run the city’s day-to-day business since 2013, announced his retirement in late December and told the Post-Record he hadn’t planned to retire quite so early. Instead, Capell said, recent changes in the city’s leadership — referring to the November 2019 general election, which saw the city’s bid to build a community-aquatics center go down by a 90-percent margin as well as the ouster of mayor Shannon Turk, who had backed the community center proposal — had made him reconsider his career plans.

“With the more recent change in leadership, I decided it was time for me to make some changes,” Capell said in December.

Capell vacated his office at Camas City Hall before the start of 2020, but is available through March to help the city with its transition process.

At a Camas City Council workshop held Monday night, Jennifer Gorsuch, the city’s director of administrative services, told city councilors city staff had solicited proposals from three executive-search firms: Waldron, which has offices in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco; Prothman, of Issaquah, Washington; and the California-based Bob Murray and Associates.

City Councilman Greg Anderson said he recalled using Waldron during the search for a new administrator after longtime city administrator Lloyd Halverson retired in 2012 after a 23-year stint as the city’s top staff member.

“They had very good interaction with the staff and the candidate pool (was) very deep,” Anderson said of Waldron. “It wasn’t easy to get candidates into the ‘no’ pool, so that showed me they were good.”

Councilwoman Melissa Smith said she had no problem with either Waldron or Prothman, having worked with both firms in the past.

“The times I was there, they were very successful,” Smith said.

New Councilwoman Shannon Roberts, who voters elected in November 2019 to replace Councilwoman Deanna Rusch, said she knew the city of Vancouver had used the Bob Murray firm, based in California, a couple times.

Councilwoman Ellen Burton said she found Waldron and Bob Murray had the best web presence and that she appreciated Waldron’s process of giving back to the community and caring about social responsibility.

Councilmen Don Chaney and Steve Hogan both said they were leaning toward Waldron.

“This is the most important hire in our city right now,” Chaney said of the search for a new city administrator, adding that, based on his experiences with the firm in the past, he would vote for Waldron.

“I agree with the Waldron comments,” Hogan added. “I thought they brought candidates to us before.”

In their proposal, Waldron executives describe the firm’s four-stage executive search process, which includes interviewing key stakeholders to better understand the city’s needs; recruitment of qualified candidates; screening interviews, initial background information gathering and reference checks on “high potential candidates;” and another recruitment if the city decides to not hire from the initial pool of finalists.

The firm highlights a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in its proposal.

“Our commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen includes an unwavering commitment to environmental responsibility; diversity, equity, and inclusion; community and corporate philanthropy,” the firm states in its proposal to the city of Camas. “We recognize the urgent need to bring more diversity into leadership to ensure the communities served are represented. We understand the critical role we play in not only supporting our clients’ diversity hiring objectives, but also in ensuring a consistent, equitable and transparent process for candidates.”

Gorsuch said all of the proposals had total costs between $18,000 and $28,000 plus expenses. All of the firms expected to complete the recruitment within 18 weeks.

Gorsuch expects to bring a contract back to the city council soon. Because the amount of the contract is less than $50,000, city councilors can approve the contract in their consent agenda.

“Obviously, there is more to come in the process,” Gorsuch said Monday. “(Candidates) will have interviews with key stakeholders, council members and community members. Down the line, there will be community open houses, so they can meet with you and make sure they hear what your vision is.”