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Keokuk to Work With Outside Firm on City Administrator Search

Apr 25, 2018

The city of Keokuk will work with a search firm to identify candidates to replace Aaron Burnett, who is stepping down as City Administrator on June 22. He is leaving Keokuk after 2 ½ years on the job to take the same position in Mason City, Iowa.

The Keokuk City Council chose Hinson Consulting LLC, which is a two person firm consisting of Brent Hinson (City Administrator in Washington, Iowa) and Mark Jackson (City Administrator in Story City, Iowa). Hinson Consulting led the search that resulted in Burnett being hired by Mason City.

Keokuk Mayor Tom Richardson said he believes that by hiring a search firm, the city will get a strong field of candidates. He said taking this step also shows that the city will not leave the position vacant.

"This community cannot go backwards and go back to the mayor form of government,” said Richardson.

Keokuk hired its first city administrator in late 2007. Odis Jones resigned a few months into the job to take a position with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. It took roughly seven years for the city to hire Burnett to be its second administrator.

Shortly after Burnett was hired, the city council voted to reduce the mayor from a full-time role, with a salary of more than $60,000, to a quarter-time position making around $16,000.

Richardson said having a full-time city administrator and a part-time mayor is the best approach for Keokuk.

“A mayor is not trained to understand what the city administrator does with the grant writing and finding money," said Richardson. "It's just so complex. I know I can't do the job. I can be the mayor and I want to be mayor, but I do not want to fulfill the city administrator role and I don't think there is anyone who runs for mayor who could fulfill that dual role."

Hinson Consulting will charge the city about $7,800 for its services, which include:

  • Attend initial meeting with Mayor & City Council to discuss search (April 26)
  • Compile list of potential candidates (make contact and gauge interest)
  • Screen Candidates/Meet with Mayor & Council to Select Finalists
  • Check References/Conduct Credit Checks/Conduct Interviews

The firm said that’s about half the going rate for search firms, requiring city staff to perform specific duties as part of the search.

  • Prepare Position Profile
  • Prepare and Place Advertisements
  • Receive Applications
  • Conduct Criminal Background Checks on Finalists
  • Create Information Packets for Finalists
  • Coordinate Interviews with Finalists
  • Negotiate Employment Contract

The timeline provided by Hinson Consulting starts off with the April 26 meeting with the Keokuk City Council. It concludes with the city council approving the new city administrator's contract on June 21, one day before Burnett departs for Mason City.

Mayor Tom Richardson said that timeline is crucial, because it could mean the city would only have to wait a few weeks for its selection to finish their current job and arrive in Keokuk.

“I’m OK with [operating without a city administrator] for the short term,” said Richardson. “I just feel the city can’t be without that [position] for much more than 30-45 days.”

Richardson said the city might consider appointing or hiring an interim city administrator if the position remains vacant longer than that.

Yet to be determined is whether this will be a private process or if the community will be told the names of the applicants/finalists at any point prior to the hiring of the new city administrator.

The city announced the names of the finalists during its first search in 2007. It did not in 2015.