Gilbert could select a town manager before the new Town Council is seated on June 23.
That would mean that challenger candidates Victor Petersen and Jordan Ray, should they be elected in the May 17 runoff, will have to work with a manager whose hire they did not have a vote for. However, both said during a candidate forum hosted by the East Valley Tribune on Monday that they have had a say in the process, and are comfortable with it.
“So far, we have been involved,” Ray said. “The recruiter has spoken with each of us, and the current Council has done a good job of getting everyone involved.”
Eddie Cook, a challenger candidate who had enough votes during the March primary to win a seat outright, has been working with the executive search firm retained by Gilbert.
Current Town Manager Collin DeWitt made clear he was not interested in the job long term, and his contract expires in June. Holding off on the hiring process until after the election would have meant another wait of at least six months, incumbent Council members said.
“Our time frame was really compressed, and there’s never really a good time to go through it,” incumbent Dave Crozier said. “It’s an arduous process, and if we have a chance to get it done (soon), we should do it.”
A list of finalists will be released May 18, a day after the election. Each Council member and member-elect will be part of interview panels.
“Whoever is elected on May 17 will be an integral part of the process because they need to be,” incumbent and Vice Mayor Les Presmyk said. “They need to be part of the process because the town manager, legal counsel, presiding judge and town clerk are the four employees that are hired by the Council, the town manager being the most important one.”
Excellent communication skills and the financial and business sense required to manage a municipality of 220,000 residents were the ideal manager qualities most cited by the six candidates at the Tribune forum. Presmyk said that Kent Cooper — Gilbert’s town manager from 1983-2001 and father of current Council member Ben Cooper — is the kind of visionary the town needs.
“I learned first-hand what it takes to do that job,” Ben Cooper said, smiling. “And I know that rather than doing it, I’d rather have someone there working for me.”
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