City manager finalist field narrows as Niermann O'Neil withdraws

Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley reported that Novak Consulting Group, the search firm hired by city council to conduct the search for a new city manager, received 68 applications for the position and selected five finalists for council to interview. Susanna Niermann O’Neil, acting city manager, was one of the five, but has withdrawn her application. Council has accepted her withdrawal.

In a letter to council dated Feb. 22, Niermann O’Neil said, “The recent selection process has made me aware that after our household mortgage was paid off in 2007 our real estate taxes became delinquent when they were no longer part of a mortgage payment. Although we have subsequently been current on our taxes, this past history is embarrassing to me and therefore not acceptable to me to continue as an applicant. I am also very aware that all things evolve and that it is time for City Council to bring in a new person as City Manager.”

“It’s somewhat sad,” said Kelley, “but it is an opportunity to bring in new blood and fresh ideas.”

Kelley said that Novak is finishing up the background check process and that council would find out sometime early March if the other four candidates will all move forward with their applications. “The process is ongoing, it is not closed. If someone else wanted to apply now, we would consider their application,” he said. “Susanna has done a great job as acting city manager and will be part of the transition team.”

Cleveland Heights City Council appointed Niermann O’Neil acting city manager in April 2012, when Bob Downey resigned as city manager after learning his contract would not be renewed. At the time of her appointment, Mayor Kelley stated that a national search would be conducted for a permanent city manager.

The city manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city and serves as the public safety director. The position description advertised by Novak Consulting states that candidates must have five years of senior-level management experience in local government and hold a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, candidates would also have a master’s degree in public administration.

Novak lists several characteristics that the ideal candidate would possess, including being able to work with diverse groups and being someone who would view differences of opinion as a community strength. The description states, “The next city manager will see Cleveland Heights with fresh eyes and ears and consider the city with an open mind.”

Salary for the position would be between $130,000 and $150,000, depending on the candidate’s qualifications.

When asked if council planned to seek residents' input on the city manager candidates, Kelley responded, "City council has discussed that issue and has decided not to involve residents in the process."

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 10:38 AM, 02.26.2013