Salisbury council selects firm to assist in recruiting a new city manager

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 24, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Chicago-based consulting firm Baker Tilly will assist the city for the next four months in recruiting candidates for the next manager.

Council members gathered virtually Friday after recessing from Tuesday’s regular meeting to hear presentations from “Find Great People,” based in South Carolina, and “Baker Tilly,” based in Chicago. They’re two of the three firms that submitted proposals to the city by Oct. 14.

While Find Great People serves both the public and private sectors, Baker Tilly is only focused on recruitment for the public and nonprofit sector. Anne Lewis of Baker Tilly said the firm recently assisted the town of Carrboro and the city of Asheville secure their managers. She said the firm has an internal database of more than 15,000 potential candidates across the nation, and is a member of various organizations and associations that can help with a diverse candidate pool, including the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. Lewis said Baker Tilly focuses its recruitment regionally.

Baker Tilly will begin the process by soliciting input from council members, City Manager Lane Bailey and his leadership team and other city employees. That feedback will be used to create a profile and recruiting strategy for the city. The firm also requests from candidates a “due diligence report” at the onset to prevent any surprises that could arise later.

The first phase of interviewing is conducted via telephone. Then, council members will be provided with pre-recorded video interviews from semi-finalists. Candidates will be assessed for their leadership and behavioral styles, and the firm will compare those findings with the council’s desires and outlined goals to determine the best fit. Among the assessments Baker Tilly utilizes is in determining one’s level of dominance, influence, stability and compliance, which can paint a better picture of the person’s soft skills, Lewis said.

Baker Tilly will also provide the city with weekly updates.

Find Great People uses a different profile assessment created by Profiles International that depicts candidates’ thinking style and behavioral skills, such as level of accommodation, energy level and objective judgement. Christin Mack of Find Great People said more than 9 million people have taken the assessment. So, there is a lot of data to use when evaluating candidates. Find Great People also assesses candidates against a “competency model” developed by the firm and the city after two initial interviews.

Council members said both firms were similar and qualified, but it came down to a few key specifics. Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins said she appreciated the answers related to diversifying candidate pools from both firms, but the key difference for her was that Baker Tilly did its homework of learning about the city before the presentation.

Lewis said of the 78% of applicants in 2020 who identified their gender and race, 22% of candidates were women and 15% were people of color. She added that she typically sees an influx of candidates within the final week of the job posting, which shows candidates have also done their homework before rushing to apply and allows her to ask for more time if the pool isn’t diverse enough.

Additionally, Lewis said an emphasis on equity can be layered throughout candidate questionnaires, interviews and the recruiting materials.

Council member David Post said the firm’s recruitment team is diverse. So, it looks as if they “practice what they preach.” He asked both firms about the condition of the market amidst a wave of resignations across the nation. Lewis said it has decreased, but that it all comes down to “quality over quantity.” Similarly, Mack said it seems to have mostly impacted those who were near or at retirement age.

Post said he liked that Baker Tilly focuses specifically on this type of hire.

Council member Brian Miller asked about how many searches the firm handles at one time, and Lewis said she averages between seven and 10. Lewis said it wouldn’t be a challenge to solicit new council members’ feedback at that stage of the process, especially since there is not likely to be anything significantly different that council members want to see in a new manager.

Miller said he likes the weekly status updates and due diligence reports at the onset of screening candidates.

Council member Tamara Sheffield said she liked Baker Tilly’s attitude in looking for a “fit” for the city and that it seems to have a deeper talent pool. Additionally, she likes that Lewis, who will lead Salisbury’s search, has been a municipal manager before at both the county and city level.

Mayor Karen Alexander she said she was impressed with the evaluation process of Find Great People. With Baker Tilly, Alexander said she appreciated Lewis’ comments about finding the best and most qualified candidate regardless of their gender, racial or ethnic makeup.

Miller recommended keeping the process of recruitment a confidential one because any word about a candidate potentially leaving their community for Salisbury could greatly harm their ability to lead if they’re not ultimately selected.

Baker Tilly will charge $24,500, with an additional cost of $1,650 for web-based surveying. Additionally, if the hired candidate leaves the city within a year’s time, the firm will re-initiate the recruitment process free of cost, except for advertising expenses.

Find Great People charged $35,000 for its services.

The city has worked with Baker Tilly before. In 2018, the firm reviewed the city’s Fibrant Hotwire lease along with CTC Technology & Energy, who consulted with the city on Fibrant beginning in 2016.

Council members also voted to meet in a closed session before the Nov. 16 regular meeting to discuss the city’s appointment of an interim manager.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.