Shawnee city commissioners are faced with making a critical decision. It will be one of, if not the most, important decisions they will make this year. They must select a new city manager.

We urge commissioners to take a deep breath, step back and, when all seven can gather in the council chambers at city hall, to have an in-depth dialogue about the qualities they want in a new city manager to help take them into the future.


Shawnee city commissioners are faced with making a critical decision. It will be one of, if not the most, important decisions they will make this year. They must select a new city manager.
We urge commissioners to take a deep breath, step back and, when all seven can gather in the council chambers at city hall, to have an in-depth dialogue about the qualities they want in a new city manager to help take them into the future.
We encourage them to then hire a head hunting or executive search firm at the very top of their profession to recruit applicants for a city manager. The most compelling candidates may not be seeking a job, and these firms have the expertise to help with these kinds of searches.
Even though they voted 4-2 Tuesday night to begin advertising, they should slow down the process. Vice Mayor Pam Stephens wasn’t available for Tuesday night’s meeting, and she surely should have more input into this process along with the mayor and other commissioners.
As we stated a week ago, acting city manager Phyllis Loftis is completely capable of handling the duties during the interim, no matter how long it may take.
Although the seven are elected public officials, they aren’t familiar with how a city manager operates and oversees the daily affairs at city hall.
The city faced a similar dilemma more than four years ago after then City Manager Terry Powell retired shortly before his death in April 2004 from cancer.
City elections also were on the horizon four years ago as they are now, and there were sure to be new faces on the city commission by the time a manager was hired.
All of the commissioners, at one time or another, have been successful in their work endeavors. Keeping that in mind, they should allow a firm that specializes in this type of service every day to conduct a thorough search.
They should look at it as helping them make a critical decision.
The longest tenured city commissioner is Linda Peterson. She has served for six years. Mayor Chuck Mills, and commissioners Tom Schrzan and Marva O’Neal have held their positions four years. Vice Mayor Stephens has been on the commission two years, Carl Holt has been there for about eight months and Billy Collier was elected in April.
One of the reasons already expressed by some on the commission for not wanting to hire a search firm is the cost involved and not expending city funds. Some apparently want to see through advertising what the market will bear. In that same light, the city has been without a permanent community development director for more than 10 months since Mike Southard’s departure last August, and the position still is not filled.
Commissioners could well be saving money in the long run by doling out the funds now for a professional firm to bring them the best possible candidates.
If they are concerned about expending funds for a search, maybe they can take part of that additional $100,000 to the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation and utilize it to help them find a superb city manager. That is the challenge awaiting them, and citizens will hold them accountable more now than ever.
There is no reason city commissioners should be in a huge hurry to select a manager. It seems most appropriate that the new commission, which won’t be seated until November, should have the opportunity to make the final selection. It will be those seven commissioners who serve as the bosses for the next city manager.
As we look back, some of the challenges facing a new manager and a new commission are the same as those of four years ago. Among some of them are dealing with water woes, a regional park that still hasn’t been built, a crumbling infrastructure and a critically tight city budget.
Taking their time and utilizing experts could prove beneficial.