Two years after voters opted for a city manager government system in Polson, officials are running into a few glitches in finding a replacement for Jay Henry, who has been the city’s only manager to date. The initial top candidate took another job the day after verbally committing to Polson, while a second wouldn’t take the offer despite a unanimous council vote in her favor.
Henry resigned this summer to be with his family in Oregon and the city subsequently formed a committee to search for a second manager. The city advertised the position and garnered about 30 applicants. The committee then narrowed down the field to three candidates by September.
Of those three, Paul Poczobut Jr. of Taylor, Ariz., was chosen to take over the city’s top position. The other two candidates were Steve Golnar, the previous manager of Livingston, and Larry Stoever, the former top administrator in Saline, Mich.
According to an e-mail from James Raymond, Polson’ city attorney and the interim manager, officials reached an oral agreement with Poczobut. But a day later, Poczobut informed the city that he had taken a similar job in Orland, Calif. By that time, the other candidates were no longer available either, Raymond said.
Suddenly, it was back to the drawing board.
In the second search, the committee used the original list of applicants and didn’t re-advertise the position. This time around, the committee came up with four final candidates: Michael Cramer of Greensboro, N.C., Don Seten of Sioux Falls, S.D., Joe Kerby of Montrose, Colo., and Teresa Wall-McDonald, a Polson native who has lengthy administrative experience with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
At a Nov. 17 meeting, the council voted 4-3 against naming Kerby as the No. 1 candidate of the four. Then a vote passed 4-3 to list Wall-McDonald as the top choice, with some concerns expressed over her lack of city management experience. Regarding the other two candidates, Mayor Lou Marchello said that Cramer might not stay for long because of family reasons and Seten wasn’t sure if he wanted the job.
After discussion, the council decided to vote again on Wall-McDonald and this time she was voted unanimously as the No. 1 candidate. Kerby was voted second, Cramer third and Seten fourth. After all of this, Wall-McDonald declined. The city has since been negotiating with Kerby.
Wall-McDonald chose not to take the position because two council members had questioned her city management experience and said she might be a risky selection. So even with the unanimous vote of confidence, she didn’t feel comfortable taking the job after being publicly questioned.
Raymond said the city will learn from the hiccups in its manager search.
“I think it’s taken longer than anyone expected it to, yet on the other hand I think the city has learned some important lessons about the process,” Raymond said. “After all, it’s only the second time the city’s had to do it and of course there’s some unavoidable learning curve.”
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