Who will it be?

City manager interviews kick off next week

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The Sealy City Council is scheduled to interview city manager candidates in person Jan. 8 and Jan. 10, bookending a regularly-scheduled Jan. 9 city council meeting. Officials say they expect the hopefuls will attend the meeting, which will serve as an opportunity to meet the public and the local media.

About $121,000 is budgeted for the city manager position, said Interim City Manager Warren Escovy.

Escovy, the city’s planning and community development director, has been serving since Larry Kuciemba’s contract was terminated in late May. Escovy did not apply for the permanent post.

Mayor Janice Whitehead said Tuesday that she’s seeking a leader with courage, integrity, honesty and good communication.

“I can’t really speak for the rest of the council; each of us has our own niche that we want the city manager to fall into,” Whitehead said. “I personally would like someone who has a vision and courage. We get a lot of backlash over the decisions we make. I want to make sure we get a good fit for the community. I don’t want to lose what we’ve built up.”

The Sealy City Council selected Strategic Government Resources (SGR) to conduct and manage the nationwide search that resulted in an outstanding pool of candidates. The City received 33 applications from individuals in nine states, with 20 of the applicants having city manager or assistant city manager experience.

Candidate vetting included a comprehensive questionnaire, online interviews, a psychometric assessment, a thorough media search and a rigorous background investigation.

“Council is being very cautious and very prudent,” Whitehead said. “We want to make sure we bring in the right person.”

The finalists include the following:

Stephen Ashley has more than 20 years of local government experience and most recently served as the city manager for the city of Spring Valley Village, Texas, a position he held for five years. He previously served as city manager for Grand Saline, Texas, assistant city manager and economic development director for the city of Fairfield, Texas, and economic development manager and assistant to the city manager for the city of Mansfield, Texas. Ashley earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&M University. He is a Certified Public Manager.

Andrea Gardner has more than 10 years of city management experience and currently serves as the city manager for the city of Copperas Cove, Texas, a position she has held since 2007. She previously served as the assistant city manager for the city and has also served as the director of finance for the city of Pearland, Texas, and senior budget coordinator for the city of Pasadena, Texas. Gardner holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Houston and is a Certified Public Manager.

Debi Lee has more than 30 years of city management experience and currently serves as the village manager for the village of Ruidoso, N.M., a position she has held since 2009. She previously served as the city manager for the cities of Portales and Aztec, N.M., and the assistant city manager and acting city manager for the city of Hobbs, N.M. Lee attended Eastern New Mexico University and is an ICMA Credentialed City Manager.

Lloyd Merrell has 26 years of city management experience. He most recently served as the city manager for the city of Madisonville, Ky., a position he held from 1982-2008. Previously, he served as the finance director for the city of Osceola, Arkansas, for nearly a decade. Merrell holds a bachelor’s degree in business and accounting from Arkansas State University and is a member of ICMA.

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