Whitefish Inches Closer to New City Manager

By Beacon Staff

Whitefish, with its resort-town appeal, hasn’t had a problem attracting city manager candidates to replace Gary Marks, who left his position in July to take the top city administrative job in Ketchum, Idaho. Sixty-three applied for the Whitefish position, but following a lengthy examination process and a meeting between a consultant and city councilors on Sept. 23, that number is down to 10.

The city is expected to have a new manager within the next two months. In the meantime, Dennis Taylor will continue his interim role.

After Marks resigned, Whitefish hired Greg Prothman, a Seattle-based consultant who specializes in helping cities find new officials. By placing advertisements in periodicals around the nation and sending letters to potential candidates in 11 Western states, Prothman’s agency came up with 63 interested applicants. By comparison, Polson, which didn’t go through a consulting service, had 27 applicants and is now down to three. Polson city councilors are set to make their final vote on Oct. 1.

“Sixty-three is a remarkably high number,” Prothman said. “It’s the attractiveness of Whitefish.”

The position was advertised as having a salary between $110,000 and $130,000 plus benefits. Marks was paid $109,021 annually. Kalispell’s City Manager Jim Patrick is paid $97,800 and Bill Shaw of Columbia Falls earns a $64,000 salary, plus an additional $15,000 for his role as planning and zoning administrator. If given anything above $120,000, the new Whitefish city manager would be the highest-paid city official in the state. Among the benefits are health, dental and vision, along with 12 annual paid holidays and vacation and sick time.

After the original 63 applied, Prothman said he carefully studied all of their qualifications and resumes until he was able to choose what he felt were the 16 best. Then at the Sept. 23 meeting, he and city councilors narrowed down the field to 10. Prothman said in the next three weeks, he will conduct interviews with each candidate until there are five or six left. Then, working with the city and inviting the remaining candidates to council meetings and other gatherings, Prothman expects Whitefish to have a new city manager within two months.

All of the remaining candidates have experience as top city officials, Prothman said, especially in resort towns.

“They’re all seeped in the industry,” Prothman said. “There are no newcomers.”