Camas hires firm in search for city administrator

Crop of five finalists not what city was hoping for to replace Halverson

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Camas has decided to leave the search for its next city administrator to the professionals.

City officials entered into a $43,000 contract with Waldron & Company earlier in the month to manage the search for the replacement of Camas’ top administrator, Lloyd Halverson. Now, the staffing and recruitment firm, with offices in Portland and Seattle, is in the midst of piecing together a timeline for announcing the next round of finalists.

Waldron plans to go public with its search and start marketing the position this week. The company should announce a slate of finalists by mid-December.

The company plans to broaden its search region-wide to find a replacement for the retiring Halverson, 65, the current, and so far only, city administrator for Camas. He has held his position for 23 years.

“It always comes down to finding the right fit,” said Lara Cunningham, a managing director for Waldron. “That why it’s important to understand everything on the front end.”

Finding the right fit hasn’t come so easily. The contract with Waldron comes after a scuttled attempt by the city to manage the administrator search itself. That approach was intended to save money, but it ultimately cost the city $1,952.

“We tried to do the search internally,” said Camas Mayor Scott Higgins. “But our internal reach didn’t go to as deep a pool of candidates as we had hoped.”

That first crop of five finalists contained a couple of candidates with local ties, including Camas High School Principal Steven Marshall and Clark County Community Development Director Martin Snell, who had previously served as Camas’ planning manager. The three other finalists were Craig Martin, city manager for Sweet Home, Ore., for the past 15 years; Erik Jensen, who has spent four years as director of the Hillsboro, Ore., Administration Department; and Paul Schmidt, city administrator for Oak Harbor for the past six years. Ultimately, none won the job.

Halverson announced during the spring that he planned to retire. At the time, he said he planned to relinquish his full-time duties by the end of September, the original timetable for naming a new city administrator.

But because the city reopened the hiring search, Halverson continues to act as the city administrator. He now plans to work full-time until the end of the year, then to work part-time through March.

The new city administrator will earn between $113,000 and $135,000 per year, based on experience. In 2011, Halverson made $126,450; he will earn $132,464 for 2012.

The city’s $43,000 set-aside for Waldron’s work will buy two years of service from the company, according to the contract. But the firm’s actual search work will likely wrap up toward the end of the year, Cunningham said.

She said she expects a new city administrator will be chosen by the beginning of 2013.