Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Joellen Earl, left, is chief executive of GovHR, the firm hired to run Cambridge’s search for a city manager. (Photo: GovHR)

Joellen Earl, left, is chief executive of GovHR, the firm hired to run Cambridge’s search for a city manager. (Photo: GovHR)

In an attempt to garner broad input in the search for a new city manager, 19 public focus groups have been scheduled for the eight days starting Thursday, city councillor David Maher announced late Friday. Two of the sessions are billed as being for “general citywide” input: at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and at 7 p.m. June 13, both at the Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. The remainder of the public sessions are oriented toward specific topics and groups in the city, and there will be a dozen private meetings with groups such as business associations, large employers and landowners, as well as one-on-one meetings with councillors and key city staff.

The city has selected GovHR USA, a Chicago-based consultant, to run the manager search. The selection was made May 24, but the city did not announce it publicly until Thursday. GovHR’s fee will be $32,000 with a $10,000 contingency.

060616i city manager search graphic bGovHR will be conducting the focus groups – and in some cases may be conducting multiple focus groups simultaneously, Maher said. Joellen Earl, GovHR’s chief executive, will start leading the focus groups and be joined by additional members of her staff the following week.

“Our first step is to hear from our residents and key constituents from across the city, to gather opinions on the characteristics, experience, challenges and opportunities to be considered in choosing the best city manager for Cambridge,” Maher said in introducing the schedule.

It leads off with an hour for Department of Human Service Programs recreation teams, youth sports leagues, the YMCA and youth center input, and two more hourlong sessions are set aside on the first day for representatives of East Cambridge and Central Cambridge.

 Selection of GovHR

GovHR was selected by an evaluation committee that graded three competing firms based on their proposals without regard to price. The other firms in contention were Randi Frank Consulting, of Wallingford, Conn. (proposing $32,000 with a $10,000 contingency, matching the winning bid), and the Novak Consulting Group, of Cincinnati (proposing $37,900 with a $10,000 contingency). A fourth firm, Buckland Consulting of Shelburne, Vt., submitted a thin shell of a proposal that did not meet the city’s threshold criteria and omitted reference to past similar searches. No other firms submitted proposals to the city.

The seven members of the evaluation committee graded each firm on seven criteria. GovHR’s overall composite rating was “Highly Advantageous”; Novak’s was “Advantageous”; and Frank’s was “Not Advantageous.” The committee was impressed with GovHR’s experience; strong references; staff capacity; successful work in Ferguson, Mo.; and comparable work with other city manager searches.  For Novak and Frank, the committee raised concerns about staff capacity given the size of the firm. The committee judged Frank’s interview as “disjointed,” with “vague” recruitment strategies, but thought Novak had a good community outreach strategy.

GovHR’s proposal said they have conducted 78 “city manager/administrator recruitments” in the past five years, something that impressed the evaluation committee. They are also conducting a search for the International City/County Management Association, which is seeking an executive director.