Maplewood mayor details city’s attempts to hire a city manager

Maplewood Mayor Barry Greenberg, at the request of 40 South, described what he and the city council have gone through as they have tried to hire a new city manager.

The city has been without a permanent city manager since 2019. Maplewood Public Works Director Anthony Traxler has also been acting city manager since then.

The account below is from Mayor Greenberg.

The selection of a City Manager is critical to the operation of the City. The City Council twice went through the advertisement and selection process without benefit of an executive search firm. Accordingly, I suggested that we establish criteria for the position, establish the weight of each criteria and evaluate each candidate according to such criteria. My proposal was rejected by a majority of the City Council, and I can only assume it because some of the council members wanted to use subjective criteria which could not be objectively evaluated and would not be the subject of discussion by the entire Council.

On both occasions, there was one candidate that received the unanimous recommendation of our department heads, who would work closely with the City Manager. This candidate had city manager experience and positive reviews. A minority of the council, including myself, felt that the objective criteria and views of department heads were important because the city manager’s job is to manage and work with staff. I felt that, based on my business background, that retaining existing staff and establishing a cooperative work environment was essential to the efficient and effective operation of the city.

Twice, the majority of the Council selected a different candidate based on criteria that I felt was irrelevant to the job responsibilities of the position. We all agreed that the hire would not be appropriate without a unanimous vote, or at least a significant majority of the City Council.

After the second round of the selection process ended in a deadlock, in the interest of consummating the process, myself and two other council members in the minority switched our votes to create a unanimous decision knowing that our department heads opinions would be disregarded and as Mayor I would have to work with that candidate to make it work. Unfortunately, that candidate dropped out of consideration and we were left without a viable solution.

After deciding to use an executive search firm for the third attempt, the process was more lengthy than we had anticipated. We did have one candidate that was the unanimous selection of both the department heads and city council. Council member Faulkingham and I negotiated terms of employment and the candidate twice travelled to Maplewood to interview and look for a house.

I was directed by the candidate to draw up a contract and within the next two days there was an announcement in the Post Dispatch that she had taken a position with the City of Webster Groves. That is why we are in the position that we are currently in. Any Mayor whose objective is to get a City Manager ASAP is prioritizing the urgency of filling the position over getting the best candidate.

Barry Greenberg, Mayor
City of Maplewood, MO

5 thoughts on “Maplewood mayor details city’s attempts to hire a city manager

  1. I was on the months long committee some years back to merge Richmond Heights and Clayton. Short of something cataclysmic mergers between all our little bergs are just not going to happen. The Clayton folks wanted everything they could get from RH offering little in return. The RH folks were nearly as bad. Plus, 2 city mangers, one guarenteed to loose their job. 2 chiefs, same thing. 2 mayors, ditto. et. al. were not exactly in favor of the gamble.

    • Great. So then instead of paying moderately more for a more qualified city manager and a more qualified chief, the tax base of these tiny communities are forced into bidding against each other. If a qualified candidate needs to choose between offers from Clayton or Maryland Heights and Maplewood, who are they going to choose?

      But hey, merge Richmond Heights, Brentwood, Maplewood, Shrewsbury, and Webster and what do you got? Buying power. 55,000 residents paying for one city manager instead of five.

      • That’s a good idea but a broad brush. It would be more resonable to pick 2 and hope for a dominoe effect when others see the benefits. Still, I fall back on my previous experience with the RH Clayton attempt and see little chance of compromise short of some cataclysmic event forcing it.

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