The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

At private-sector’s push, City Council launches quest for flood-recovery manager with a job description fit for Superman

In City Hall, Floods on April 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm

More than five weeks have passed now since council member Tom Podzimek suggested that an unsuccessful move by three council members related to a flood-recovery CEO was tantamount to a coup d’état.

Council members Justin Shields, Monica Vernon and Jerry McGrane all wanted this flood-recovery chief to bypass City Manager Jim Prosser and report directly to them and the other six on the City Council. But the other six dismissed the notion out of hand. The city charter calls for one CEO who reports to the council, not two, the six said.

With all the pizzazz of government overthrow now put aside, the council still is in the process of filling the position that Shields and Vernon, in particular, had agitated for.

All of the council members have gotten in line behind the position — the job is now called flood-recovery manager and the person filling it will report to Prosser — and it comes with an unusual twist. The city’s largest employer, Rockwell Collins, has pushed for the City Hall position, and Rockwell Collins is joining other private-sector contributors to pay most of the cost of the public-sector flood-recovery manager.

Conni Huber, the city’s human resources director, last week noted that the council resolution creating the position anticipates that 80 percent of the cost will be paid by private-sector corporations and/or people.

Huber last week also reported to the City Council that a multi-stepped process is underway to try to fill the flood-recovery manager position. There have been two sessions in which the public offered suggestions about the qualifications and experience that the new flood-recovery manager should possess. Council members have weighed in on the matter, too, and others have filled out surveys via the city’s Web page, Huber said.

It wasn’t clear if there was anyone in America who could fill the role after Huber had told the council what kind of person that the public and council members said they were looking for.

The new manager will need to be a top-notch coordinator, a person who can make connections, someone who is a great communicator, who can become the “face of Cedar Rapids flood recovery and reinvestment,” Huber said. The new manager must be expert in finding funding and someone who can quantify how much he or she is accomplishing. The new manager must be a leader, a consensus-builder, articulate, an effective advocate for Cedar Rapids, experienced in disaster recovery and have an advanced degree in public administration, management or some other relevant field.

After Huber finished, Mayor Kay Halloran asked, “Do you feel you can find people (to meet the qualifications)?”

“I always have to be optimistic,” Huber said. “People are out there,” she assured. The task, she added, was to connect with them.

The city now has begun to advertise the new job and hopes to have a list of applicants by May 4.

Interviews will be held June 1 and 2 with council members and others with the hope that the job will be filled by the June 12/13 anniversary of the 2008 flood.

The private-sector push by Rockwell Collins to have a private-sector-backed presence inside City Hall came even as a different local private-sector initiative here created something called the Economic Planning & Redevelopment Corp. The City Council has contributed $50,000 to the EPRC and Linn County about half that amount, but it’s a little murky what the mission of the EPRC’s director, Doug Neumann, will be once the private sector has a flood-recovery manager inside City Hall.

Council member Chuck Wieneke has suggested that the City Council take back its $50,000 from the EPRC now that the city is creating a new position at City Hall.

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  1. The qualifications are quite immense, as are the potential job duties. I dare say that the required duties listed on the City’s job notice significantly exceed a 40 hour work-week, if not an 80-90 hour work-week.

    The sad irony, of course, is that looking through the non-flood-related qualifications and duties posited in the job posting, one quickly realises that the current lineup of upper-echelon City staffers (by Org Chart position, of course, not by actual skill sets) fails to meet 75% or more of those non-flood knowledge and skill requirements (lucky for them, they have driver’s licenses).

    It’s no wonder that the citizens and business leaders are calling for this position to be created and staffed by an “outsider”, given the proven lack of leadership and skills within the current City staff. I dare say that all of the non-flood qualifications should be more closely examined and used as a frame of reference to review the performance of the current City Manager after this November’s elections (sooner, actually, but that won’t happen). Further, the City Manager would be well-served to think long and hard about why it has come to the point of hiring this position from outside the current City staff.

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