Christiansburg is at least a month away from naming its new town manager, but town council has narrowed the list to 11 semi-finalists, according to spokesperson Mellissa Demmitt.
The list is expected to dwindle even further in the coming weeks, and Demmitt said the position should be filled in the next 30-45 days. The position was first advertised May 11, 2017 a month after former town manager Steve Biggs died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The News Messenger reported in October that the town was close to filling the position, but town council decided to reopen the application process in late November.
Mayor Michael Barber and council members said then that finding the perfect candidate was the main priority and that rushing the process was not in the town’s best interest.
Demmitt said that taking this long to hire someone is not unusual such an important position. The town has had outside help with the process from Springsted/Waters, a Richmond-based recruitment firm.
The cost of hiring the firm for both searches following Biggs’ death will end up costing the town nearly $30,000.
“The initial search ended up costing $10,000, which the town has already paid to Springsted,” Demmit wrote in an email. “After council re-initiated the search, they signed a contract for $19,500. The town has paid $5,850 of that amount so far. So, in total, at this point in time, for this search, the town has paid $15,850 to Springsted.”
Barber said in November that spending the money was not too much of a burden on the town because “the position has been vacant for almost six months, which means there is that amount of money that has not been spent on the manager’s salary.”
Demmitt said that the hiring process begins with Springsted screening and providing assessments of the applicants for town council. The group also crafts the interview questions and coordinates the interview format in conjunction with the council.
Members of the council take Springsted’s applicant evaluations under advisement and determine which applicants they want to interview. After initial interviews, council attempts to reach consensus regarding their top interviewees, and Springsted coordinates final-round interviews.
The six council members vote on a final candidate and Barber only casts a vote in the event of a tie.
Demmitt said a salary range for the position is determined by the council, the overall qualifications of the candidate(s) and Springsted’s assessment of market pay. The prior hire-in rate for Steve Biggs was $140,000.
Assistant Town Manager Randy Wingfield applied for the position in the first round, but Demmitt said she could not comment on whether he had been named as a semi-finalist this go-around due to it being an on-going personnel matter. Wingfield’s salary increased from $113,000 to $130,000 when he was named the interim town manager in April 2017.