The City of Lindsay is looking for a new top administrator.
With the city finally standing on firmer financial ground, City Manager Bill Zigler decided it was time to hang up his spurs. Zigler, a 21-year veteran of the US Navy, started as a self-described “gray-haired intern” in the city’s Planning and Economic Development Department in 2000, earning just $9 an hour.
“I was kind of the quiet guy over there,” he said. “I had been around the block more than a few times.”
Rising through the ranks as he did in the Navy, Zigler eventually found himself directing the department where he began. Then, when former City Manager Rick Wilkinson resigned in 2015 after a falling out with the city council, Zigler moved into the top spot.
At the time, Lindsay was facing severe budget shortfalls. By August of this year, with a rosier budget situation for the town and all things at Lindsay City Hall seeming fairly stable, Zigler decided to call it a career. Taking over the reins as interim city manager is Bret Harmon.
“I’m proud of what our team has achieved,” Zigler said of his time in the top spot. “Now, it’s time to pass the torch to new leadership, and I do so with total confidence in Bret and what will now become his team.”
So far, the transition has been smooth, Harmon said.
“Staff is adjusting to Bill’s retirement,” he said. “We all miss him, and we’re growing in a lot of different ways.”
Picking a Replacement
The staff may face another transition early in 2020, as the city council settled on a schedule for finding and hiring Zigler’s replacement. If all goes as planned, the new city manager will take over the job by next Valentine’s Day. The date is firm, as regulations limit the time Harmon can function as interim city manager.
“CalPERS (the California Public Employees Retirement System), they govern a lot of our rules for public agency employees,” said Mari Carillo, Lindsay’s director of human resources. “Most importantly, the current interim city manager that you’ve appointed cannot exceed 960 hours per fiscal year. So, your deadline for him to be in that position is February 14, 2020.”
At its September 10 meeting, the council decided to conduct the search for Zigler’s replacement using in-house resources. Carillo described the cost of hiring an outside recruiting firm to lead the search as “pretty substantial.” Mayor Pamela Kimball went further, saying the use of outside recruiters is not only expensive, but also ineffectual.
“From what I’ve seen from surrounding cities, it hasn’t benefited them to spend all that money on a recruiter,” she said. “I don’t see any point in spending $20,000 or $30,000 personally.”
Job Notice Posted
After deciding on the specifics of the search and selection criteria at the September 10 meeting, the council gave the go-ahead to begin advertising the position at its meeting last week. A flyer describing the job requirements, including salary and benefits, has been posted on the city’s website–lindsay.ca.gov. It will also be shared with college and university city administration programs.
Those seeking to become Lindsay’s new city manager may apply via the city’s website. The salary range is $109,000 to $148,800 a year, plus benefits. Applications are due by November 3.
Applicants will face a trio of panel interviews, Carillo said.
“The first one will be community-based, where we’d like to have someone from the community who would be someone from the community the city manager would interact with,” she said. “The second panel would be a city manager or retired city manager who would help us.”
The first round of interviews is scheduled for December 4. The top three candidates will then face a final interview with the city council on December 10.
“They’ll present to (the council) on a topic,” Carillo said. “That’ll be in a closed session.”
The Right Fit
The city has already conducted a “personality analysis” to determine what qualities are most likely to make interaction between the council and the city manager as smooth as possible.
“This helps us find the candidate (the council) wants, the ideal candidate,” Carillo said.
And the city will also be calling on the expertise of former and current administrators from surrounding municipalities to fill the second interview panel.
“For potential panelists, we’d reach out to some community members and professionals from the surrounding cities, (as well as) community members from within the city,” Carillo said.
Carillo said it is common practice for cities to call on one another when making high-level hires.
“We have a network where we contact each other,” she said. “When we ask for assistance from other agencies for our panel, we do send them something that lets them know what guidelines we’d like them to follow.”
The only thing lacking is the process was a wider polling of community members regarding what they’d like to see in the city’s new lead administrator. To fill that gap, the council has decided to post a questionnaire online via its social media accounts.
Vice-Mayor Laura Cortes, however, would have preferred a face-to-face meeting with constituents to gain their insights.
“I really want the community involved, as well as employees. I wanted an open forum to take suggestions of what the city, the community, wanted to see in their city manager,” she said. “Fresno has done that, and Hanford is doing that right now because they’re recruiting for a city manager. They’re having like a town meeting.”