The Kodiak Island Borough’s long search for a new manager is nearing an end.
On Monday night, the Kodiak borough assembly began its final series of interviews, grilling the first of its last six candidates with two hours of questions.
Former Ketchikan Gateway Borough manager Roy Eckert; Bethel city manager Lee Foley; Old Harbor tribal administrator Fred Brooks; former Menominee, Mich. City manager Eric Strahl; former Wethersfield, Conn. town manager Bonnie Therrien; and former Steamboat Springs, Colo. City manager Alan Lanning are the borough’s final options.
The Kodiak Island Borough has needed almost six months to reach this point in the hiring procedure for the borough’s top job; former manager Rick Gifford announced his resignation in March and stepped down in June to become administrator of the Aleutians East Borough.
Community development director Bud Cassidy has acted as interim manager, overseeing day-to-day operations.
Initial interviews were conducted via Skype, allowing the assembly to reach its short list.
Eckert and Foley arrived in Kodiak on Sunday and spent Monday touring the city and borough with government officials before gathering in the borough conference room for a face-to-face, on-the-record interview.
In questioning, Eckert — who now lives in Georgia — said it’s important for any newcomer to be aware that there’s a reason departments operate the way they do. “The manager should come to a community and bring experience, yes, bring ideas, yes, but … it has to be done to community standards and not bring somebody else’s (standards) in that may not work,” he said.
Foley took a different tack. When asked about his weaknesses, he replied, “I tend to get impatient with people who tell me it can’t be done or it must be done a certain way. … When you say, ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘We’ve never done it that way before,’ let’s try.”
Both men told the assembly that budgeting is among their top priorities. Eckert said he’s concerned about the national rate of municipal debt. “Cities that have massive debt had better do whatever they can to get out of debt,” he said. “Make sure you can be as self-sustaining as possible.”
Foley explained that when he took his job in Bethel, the city had not had a balanced budget in the previous seven years, and he worked with the city’s finance department to change that.
Both men faced pointed questions about their work history. Foley was asked about an Oct. 2011 outburst at a polling station that led to a two-week unpaid suspension.
He responded that the incident was out of character for him and was due to several factors including medication he was taking at the time. He said he made amends with multiple public apologies and maintains good relationships with election workers.
Eckert was asked about his work history. In May 2010, Eckert took a job as city manager of Powder Springs, Ga., a position he still holds. In August 2010, he interviewed to become city manager of Palmer. The following year, he interviewed to become manager of Jackson County, Ga.
“Our plan, should we be here, is to not move again,” he said in response to questions about longevity. “We plan to build.”
The borough assembly will hold in-person interviews with Brooks and Strahl beginning at 6 p.m. tonight in the borough assembly chambers. Interviews with Therrien and Lanning have been scheduled for Sept. 22.
A special meeting to select the assembly’s choice is likely in the following week.