Our new city manager: this job description takes us in the wrong direction
Cleveland Heights has hired a consulting group to conduct the search for a new city manager. Mayor Ed Kelley has been quoted as saying that search could cost between $60,000–$125,000.
I hope everyone who is interested in this expensive process and important decision will go online and read the job description being used to guide the search. It is available at the Novak Consulting Group website. The firm is located in Cincinnati.
Three things stand out: a bachelor’s degree is a required qualification; the hiring range is $130,000–$150,000; and the person must live in Cleveland Heights.
1. A bachelor’s degree is required for qualification and a master’s degree is only a preferred qualification. This wording, required vs. preferred, will be used to justify the hiring decision. In today’s world and in our area, a renowned educational center, is a bachelor’s degree an acceptable qualification?
2. How many people do you know who earn a salary of $130,000–$150,000 with a bachelor’s degree? Anyone? How many people do you know who earn this salary, no matter what their education? Requiring a bachelor's degree is setting the bar too low for this job and this level of compensation.
3. Residency in the City of Cleveland Heights is required. You are probably thinking “Oh, the person has to MOVE to Cleveland Heights.” That’s what I thought when I first read it. But it does not say that. Please read it for yourself and come to your own conclusion.
Why was this job description written in this way? Call me a conspiracy theorist if you must, but clearly this job description was written to justify hiring Susanna O’Neil. She is a longtime city employee and currently the acting city manager. Furthermore, she is on record saying she wants this position.
For decades O’Neil has been the director of community services, which includes community relations and the operation of parks and recreation facilities. Whatever your opinion of her performance in that role, her performance does not appear to justify promotion to city manager.
She pushed hard to demolish Denison Pool without community discussion or data to substantiate this decision. Denison Pool served the section of the city with one of the largest concentrations of African-American children and poor children living in single-family households.
She did nothing to help preserve Oakwood as a Metropark and she made no effort to engage the community in a discussion about this green space.
Despite adequate funding and many years of experience, O’Neil demonstrates limited ability to leverage Cain Park as a community amenity.
Hiring a city manager gives us an opportunity for new ideas. If the Cleveland Heights City Council conducts an expensive job search—using a Cincinnati firm—and then hires Susanna O’Neil, which they could have done spending zero dollars, it will be another example of our mediocre government at work.
We deserve better.
Fran Mentch is a 23-year resident of Cleveland Heights and a civic activist.