Mayor optimistic new Crestwood city administrator will start job in June

City officials seek administrator with ‘strong financial background’

By BURKE WASSON

With a Friday deadline to submit applications for Crestwood’s vacant city administrator’s post, Mayor Roy Robinson is optimistic that a new city administrator will begin work in June.

As of last week, 25 to 30 applications had been submitted for the position, Robinson told the Call.

“There’s a pile of them,” Robinson said. “And based on a brief look at them … I see right off hand probably eight to 10 of them are probably capable.”

City officials are seeking to fill the position vacated by former City Administrator Frank Myers, who resigned effective March 28 to accept a position in Glendale vacated by retiring City Administrator Mike Pounds.

Myers was paid an annual salary of $91,800 in Crestwood and now is receiving that same salary in Glendale plus a more comprehensive benefits package. The new Crestwood city administrator will receive a salary in the range of $75,000 to $95,000.

Robinson has emphasized that “a strong financial background” will be required of Myers’ successor, but also said that there are other areas to consider and that a financial background “will not be the deciding factor.”

“There’s a lot of personal things,” Robinson said. “When I meet somebody, they may have the greatest financial background in the world. But if I know from my digging into them that they’re not a good fit for here, they couldn’t get it anyway.”

The city will also use a search panel in finding a new city administrator. Robinson said that team would be comprised of two to three aldermen along with two to three department heads.

To judge applicants with a truly unbiased perspective, the mayor said the panel would be judging applications on an anonymous basis.

“We’re trying to use the same type of matrix we used before where people do not see the names,” Robinson said. “They have numbers and they evaluate each applicant based on a number and not a name so they don’t know who they’re reviewing. They’re just rating them based on what’s in their resume. I don’t know who people know.

“Like everything else, if somebody knows somebody and they hear something, they can probably associate it with that person. But I think it’s still pretty hard to figure out who these people are. But I don’t care about the name. I want the best-qualified people.”

The mayor said aldermen already have shared ideas on the makeup of the panel as well as methods of searching for a new city administrator.

“When we found out he (Myers) was leaving, we were told what they (aldermen) would like to see,” Robinson said. “And I’m trying to work as closely to them without hindering me from doing my part. I’m trying to allow them to participate and be involved. But I don’t want too many of them on that because then it becomes a quorum. I just want people who have a little background in that type of recruitment …

“If the board would like to interview my top three or top two or something, they’ll probably be given that opportunity. But I haven’t gone that far yet. But I will definitely be the one that will be submitting the name to the board after all this process is done.”

Crestwood’s new city administrator will inherit a time of transition as the city’s mall was sold in March to two development companies. The former Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood now is temporarily named Crestwood Court and is owned by Angelo, Gordon & Co. of New York and Centrum Properties of Chicago.

The mall’s occupancy rate was as low as 55 percent in recent months, and the city has struggled to gain sales-tax revenue from that primary source.

While city officials reported last year that 53 percent of Crestwood’s sales-tax revenue comes from the mall, that percentage has dropped in recent months.

With the mall’s pending redevelopment, Robinson believes it is imperative to find a city administrator with experience in managing finances.

At the same time, he realizes that experience in many areas will be an advantage to Crestwood.

“That’s a very important part of what we’re looking for,” Robinson said of financial background.

“We need someone overseeing all of it with a strong financial background. But that’s just one small part of it. That job is much bigger than just that. But we would like to concentrate on that area.”

With the number of applicants that the city has already heard from and the prospect of attracting more by Friday, the mayor is confident that he and city officials will find a qualified person who can help lead the city.

“I’m not going to be taking just anything,” Robinson said. “I want to make sure we get somebody that’s capable and also someone who has some experience. We’ve lost so much experience that I think that it’s hard to just go in with somebody completely learning the process.

“But there seems to be a nice number (of applicants). And I’m expecting a lot more within the next few days. Right before the end, they usually start piling in a lot more. If not, we’ve got some to go with and we’ll see what turns up there. I’d like to think that we’ll have somebody in place by the first of June, but we’ll just have to see.”

In the meantime, Fire Chief Karl Kestler has been serving as interim city administrator and doing “a fine job,” according to the mayor.

The mayor also is looking forward to personally meeting with applicants to truly determine if they are the right fit for the city.

“Until you meet them and talk to them, anybody can put stuff on paper,” Robinson said. “But I’m satisfied we’ve got a nice bunch. We’re going to look at them and we have a panel that will go through them. I won’t have anything to do with rating them. They’ll give me a list of the top five to 10. And then I will start looking at them and see if I can find somebody in that group that fits what I think. Then I’ll present it to the board and see if they agree. If they don’t, then I’ll start all over again.”