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Government Local

DeKalb could seek help with city manager search

DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki
DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki

DeKALB – DeKalb city leaders are leaning toward hiring an external search firm to replace City Manager Mark Biernacki.

Biernacki, who plans to retire June 14, said he will contact at least six firms for information about their services and cost. He estimated the city would have to spend $20,000 to $25,000.

The incoming new members of the City Council – Mayor-elect John Rey, 2nd Ward Alderman Bill Finucane, and 4th Ward Alderman Robert Snow – also said they were open to hiring a search firm.

“A search firm can help construct the appropriate skill sets and prerequisites for appropriate candidates.” Rey said.

Regardless of whether the council decides to hire an outside company or rely on city staff, Biernacki said the process likely would take five to six months.

The city has utilized both methods in the past when looking for a city manager. Biernacki was hired in 2004 through an internal search, while Jim Connors was hired in 1997 with the help of an executive search firm.

Alderman Dave Baker of the 6th Ward, who was on the council when council members hired Biernacki, said Monday that he remembered the staff placing advertisements in municipal publications.

“It seemed like it would be someone who is actively seeking a job,” Baker said. “I’m intrigued by the idea of an outside [search firm].”

Biernacki said search firm representatives would do whatever the council paid them to do.

The firm can place ads, solicit candidates who might not be looking for a new job, run background checks and check references, as well as prepare candidate profiles.

Relying on city staff would be cheaper, but with only one person in the human resources department, it could be too much for that person, Biernacki said.

Both Rey and Finucane said they were concerned about burdening staff with
a city manager search, as well as potential conflicts of interest if one of the candidates already worked for the city.

Finucane said the city could utilize Northern Illinois University’s public
administration program, which produces students with master’s degree and doctorates.

“Their contact list is tremendous,” Finucane said. “That might be one way we could reach out through people.”

Snow said he could support a search firm being used, but a lot of the work could be done by the city internally.

“I don’t think it can be done all in-house,” Snow said, “but I think a substantial part can be.”

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