Ridgefield sorting through city manager applications

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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The city of Ridgefield took the first step toward hiring a new city manager Tuesday, closing the application period in its search for a top administrator.

Applications for the post, which oversees the city's day-to-day business, have been trickling in since Ridgefield's previous city manager, Phil Messina, announced his resignation in November. But on Tuesday, that trickle turned into a deluge, as the city received 12 more applications.

It was unclear exactly how many total applications the city has received.

A hiring committee will soon sort through the applications, narrowing them down to a list of finalists. The process of naming a new manager could take a little more than a month -- possibly longer if officials decide to extend the deadline.

That will only happen if the city's hiring committee is unimpressed by its slate of finalists, something officials have worked to avoid.

Mayor Ron Onslow said the city has reached out to potential candidates in an attempt to recruit them to Ridgefield.

"The city has been pursuing certain people," he said. "Hopefully, we'll get some good ones."

Unlike many cities — including Camas, which recently hired Pete Capell as its new city administrator — Ridgefield hasn't had to hire an outside consulting firm to assist with the search. The Prothman Co., will conduct background checks at a reduced price because Messina, who was recruited for the job by Prothman, resigned after less than a year.

Messina said he was stepping down for personal reasons.

Three panels — representing council members, citizens and city staff — will interview the three finalists in February. The city anticipates having a new manager in place by March.

Since Messina's resignation, Lee Knottnerus, the city's administrative services director, has served as acting city manager. Vancouver-based financial consultant Paul Lewis, who previously served as the city's interim city manager, is assisting with the search.

Council members have discussed what characteristics they'd like to see in a city manager, Onslow said, and hope those are met in the applications.

"Were hoping for someone who can go out and talk to new businesses, and at the same time run the city," he said. "We want (the city manager) to have business acumen."