Clark County advances manager search

Council votes to hire Texas company to seek applicants for position

By Jake Thomas, Columbian staff writer



The Clark County council took a step toward hiring a permanent county manager and held off on updating its invocation guidelines.

At its Tuesday morning hearing, the council voted to authorize Interim County Manager Jim Rumpeltes to sign a $27,000 contract with Strategic Government Resources, a Texas-based recruiting and consulting firm, to find a permanent replacement for Mark McCauley, who was ousted as county manager in May.

According to a staff report, the county received eight proposals for the contract to conduct a national search for Clark County’s top executive. Earlier this month, the council met in executive session (meetings closed to the public to discuss personnel or legal issues) to interview representatives from two firms. The council settled on Strategic Government resources.

“They were by far the most qualified,” said council Chair Marc Boldt, speaking after the meeting.

He said that the firm had good connections that will produce strong candidates for the position. He said that the next step will be bringing a representative from the firm to Clark County to talk to the council, other elected officials and community members to get a feel for the position.

After that, he said the firm would begin placing ads for the position and searching for candidates. He said that the council will be presented with 10 candidates that will be narrowed down to three. Although the interviews with the recruitment firms were held behind closed doors, he said there will be future meetings open to the public. He said a new permanent county manager will be hired in four to five months.

“We will inform the public about the steps throughout this process,” he said.

Councilor Eileen Quiring was the only member of the council to vote against moving forward with the contract. After the meeting, she explained that she voted “no” out of concerns that the firm’s process wouldn’t be flexible and wouldn’t allow enough input from the council. She also said she’s concerned that the firm specializes more in recruiting managers for cities and not counties. She said that the county council has a broader scope than a city council.

“(The recruiter) has been told that he needs to listen and he will be giving updates,” said Quiring, who added that she’s hopeful that it will work out.

Doug Thomas, a senior vice president with the firm who will be recruiting Clark County’s next manager, said that SGR recruits for a wide range of positions for governments and nonprofits and there just happens to be more cities than counties. He also said that the firm will work extensively with the council on the front end and will also get input from a variety of stakeholders.

Invocation update

The council was scheduled to vote on an update to its invocation guidelines but held off for another week out of concerns that the public didn’t have adequate notice.

In 2013, the then-county commission began inviting local clergy to offer an invocation, or prayer, before meetings. In recent months, the county has been reworking the guidelines for the invocation to minimize staff time spent on it and to make it more inclusive.

The council has had disagreements over what concessions should be made toward nonreligious individuals and whether they could offer an invocation or just a moment of silence.

The most recent guidelines, posted to the county’s website, allow groups “having no religious affiliation” to offer a brief statement “to reflect on the gravity of the moment, seek peace for the nation, wisdom for its lawmakers, and justice for its people, or generally appeal to universal values of our country” before council meetings.

Stuart Riley, an atheist resident of Hazel Dell, has complained that the revised guidelines treat secular and religious individuals differently. But Quiring has objected to the idea of a secular invocation, arguing that an invocation appeals to a higher power.

Councilor Jeanne Stewart and Quiring requested that consideration of the updated guidelines be delayed.

“It will be back in its same form next week,” Quiring said.