EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14/CBS4) — The El Paso City Council voted in favor of issuing a request for qualifications to contract a search firm that will help find the next El Paso city manager.
The City of El Paso's Assistant Director of Human Resources, Mary Wiggins, said they hope a search firm will be able to help the city extend an offer to a city manager candidate by the end of November.
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Wiggins said the city would like the search firm to put forth diverse candidates and involve the community and other stakeholders in the city manager selection process.
The search firm that we are going to utilize, they understand that we are wanting are wanting heavy citizen involvement and that we want them [search firm] to go out to the citizen groups and gather that information, make sure that we're hearing what our citizens are saying, though we want a panel of our employees to make sure our employees are heard,” said Wiggins.
Once a search firm is selected, they are expected to also hear from City Council members about what they are looking for in a city manager.
"We're going to bring them in and we're going to set them down with all of you and that’s when you’re going to be having those discussions of what you’re looking for," said Wiggins.
The search firm will also help the city create a minimum of four panels that will help advise the City Council about the city manager.
Specifics about each panel will be discussed at a later time.
"Panels will be in a basic advisory role and the final decision will be up to council to vote on,” said Mayor Oscar Leeser.
Rep. Cassandra Hernandez brought up a possible concern about the search firms' selection process saying that she would like to minimize the cost of the search if additional candidates need to be brought in.
"So making sure that the firm will guarantee their search and no additional fees will come from that. So if the first round is not meeting the needs of council, then to make that we put there [in contract agreement] that they’re going to guarantee, with no additional costs to the taxpayer, that they will bring back a second round or a third round.”
Wiggins said they plan to open recruitment for a search firm next week.
"It is a very large process, it’s a very big undertaking and so we take it very seriously. We will be dedicating the time appropriate to be able to make sure that that you know we are hitting all the marks,” Wiggins said.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Hernandez also led a presentation outlining the Texas City Management Association's guidelines for recruiting a city manager.
City Manager Tommy Gonzalez was hired as El Paso's second city manager in 2014 following a national search. He started with a base salary of $238,959.82 and currently earns over $400,000.
In 2022, the city council voted to cap Gonzalez's salary and approved Gonzalez's contract extension for five years until 2029.
Gonzalez's salary cap is $450,000 with any increases above that amount going towards the City of El Paso's streets department for street improvements.
His employment contract was terminated without good cause on Feb. 28 and his last day will be on June 29.
Interim City Manager Cary Westin will take over his new role on June 30.
Hernandez launched a public survey so El Pasoans can share their thoughts on what qualifications they would like the new city manager to have. The survey can be accessed here.
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The City of El Paso is also in the process of working with a search firm to hire a chief of police.
The city announced on Monday that it hired Strategic Government Resources to lead the recruitment process.
The cost of hiring the firm starts at $27,000 and is expected to increase depending on the type of outreach the firm does.
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