Committee chooses city manager finalists

VERGENNES — After a series of video interviews on Tuesday night the committee charged with recommending candidates to be the new Vergennes city manager to the city council has narrowed the field from six semifinalists to three finalists, according to search committee chairman and Deputy Mayor Jeff Fritz.
Fritz said plans call for those three finalists to do another round of video interviews, this time with the entire city council, at a special meeting next week.
As of Wednesday morning Fritz said that meeting, which will be held behind closed doors because it deals with personnel issues, could be held on Tuesday evening.
Final in-person interviewing of one or two candidates would be held a week later at a regularly scheduled council meeting, Fritz said. That timetable would allow a new manager to give three weeks notice at his or her current position before taking over in Vergennes, an amount of time all three assured the search committee would be adequate, according to Fritz.
All six of the semifinalists were “highly qualified” and impressed the search committee, according to Fritz, but the three finalists “stood out.”
Fritz said the identities of the three finalists remain confidential at this point in the process. He described all three as holding “executive positions in municipal government” in communities roughly the size of Vergennes.
None are from Vermont, however, nor were any in the pool of 42 applicants from which the six semifinalists were drawn. Fritz said one of the finalists hails from the Midwest, while the other two are from the East Coast. All, he said, are familiar with cold winters as well as “small-town life.”
They are seeking to replace longtime City Manager Mel Hawley, who served in that post from 1981 to 1998 and returned to the job in 2008. Hawley, who turns 65 next week, was set to retire on July 24, but agreed to stay on as a part-time manager until Aug. 31 to give the council more time to find a new manager.
Hawley also wore a number of other hats for Vergennes, most notably serving as its city clerk before taking over as manager, starting in 1977, and as its zoning administrator, a position he kept when he stepped down as manager from 1998 to 2008 to work for Country Home Products.
An earlier search to replace Hawley before his planned retirement date came up empty-handed, and city officials turned to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to conduct a second search that they say so far has proven more productive: The city’s in-house effort failed to produce a candidate the search committee recommended for a Vergennes City Council interview.

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