TOP work study to find new town manager

Councilor Chris Higgins listens as a group discusses what they want in a new town manager.

The Nov. 19 study session to guide the Payson Town Council in its quest for a new town manager turned into a case study in civility.

A few community members joined the council and town staff in the Rim Country Middle School cafeteria to discuss what experience and characteristics the new town manager needs.

As participants squeezed around tables designed to hold middle school lunch munchers, consultant David Eversten, with Municipal Solutions, placed council members at one table.

Their first task?

Find a name.

They called themselves, the Civil 7.

That mind frame permeated the evening as the other two employees and citizen groups, calling themselves the Christmas Elves and Team No. 2, joined the Civil 7 to come up with lists to identify the town’s main problems, what challenges the new town manager will face and what experience the new manager needs.

The council fired the last town manager on a split vote. That action prompted dueling recall efforts that have now targeted all seven council members.

To sweeten the task Tuesday night, Eversten brought chocolate from both Switzerland and Italy.

As the groups reconvened, they found they had striking similarities in their lists.

The Civil 7, the Elves and Team 2, agreed that restoring harmony to create a culture of collaboration ranked at the top of their lists for a new town manager.

“All other things can be worked out if you have that trust,” said Darlene Younker for her group, the Christmas Elves.

As for the greatest issues facing the town, the teams all topped their list with funding the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System deficit, recruiting and keeping good town staff and prioritizing capital improvement and maintenance of town assets.

“We agreed the new town manager has to balance requests and demands. How will they deal with leadership development?” said James Zorn, the spokesperson for Team No. 2. “Other issues are the financial constraints of the town budget and how the priorities will be identified between a need versus a want.”

All three groups agreed the new town manager should have a master’s degree in some management or administrative area plus five to 10 years of experience in public service management.

Most of the groups argued against hiring someone from the immediate geographical area, because they might be limited in their perspective and part of the “good-old-boy” network.

“If we did hire someone from the local area, they would know the culture and history,” said Vice Mayor Janell Sterner. “But it could go both ways with bias and favoritism.”

All three groups agreed someone from outside the area would have “a cleaner slate” and bring “a different perspective coming from a different region,” said Zorn.

Eversten promised he would collate both the responses from the survey and the findings from the work-study to present at a future town council meeting.

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