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City Council To Hire Outside Firm for Manager Search

By Kerry M. Flynn and Maya Jonas-Silver, Crimson Staff Writers

An outside firm will be hired to expedite the process of selecting a new city manager to replace Cambridge’s longtime head government employee, Cambridge City Councillor and Chair of the Government Operations Committee David P. Maher said on Monday.

Other councillors expressed chagrin at the slow movement of the selection process in recent months.

“This is too important for us to be able to manage ourselves. We need help from a nationally recognized company,” Maher said.

The process of selecting a new city manager is a task that none of the current city councillors have taken on before, since current manager Robert W. Healy has held the job for more than 30 years.

“Everything about the operation of the city has to do with the capacity of the city manager and the staffer and the boards he appoints to carry out the policy of the City Council,” said Francis H. Duehay ’55, a former Cambridge mayor who was on the council the last time Cambridge had to select a manager.

Since Healy announced in March that he planned to retire, the Council has convened for two meetings, in June and in September, to discuss the selection process.

At the meetings, the Council decided to pursue a “visioning exercise first, wait for the results, and then do the search,” Maher said.

As part of its “visioning exercise,” the Council will welcome input from community members in an effort to “develop a vision of what we are looking to have the city look like a few years from now.”

“My hope is that we would have a more delineated roadmap in November,” Maher said.

Councillor Craig A. Kelley said that he is disappointed by the slow progress.

“It’s been a long time, and we’ve had two meetings. Two meetings about this!” Kelley said.

Kelley also noted that both of the meetings were convened at 10 a.m. on a workday, making it difficult for any members of the working public to attend.

“Hiring a manager isn’t a small decision. With such an important decision, why is it that so little seems to be happening?” Kelley said to a Crimson reporter on Monday. “If your story has as little detail to it as the process has so far, it will be a very short story.”

Mayor Henrietta J. Davis said she is not worried about the speed of the process.

“The most important thing is to have a good process. We have plenty of time,” Davis said.

Though the Council created a 15-month transition period that some found unnecessarily long, Maher said that it actually seems unlikely that the city will complete the selection process by the time Healy’s contract expires on June 30, 2013.

“The odds are that we will not have it all finished. It may lend itself that we may be looking at an interim appointment,” Maher said.

Davis noted that frequently in choosing a school superintendent, the city has appointed an interim superintendent for a year.

“There’s been a year of an acting person and sometimes that’s even a good thing,” she said.

Healy himself initially served as acting city manager from July to December 1981 before formally taking on the position.

The third meeting of Cambridge Government Operations Committee—which is comprised of all nine city councillors—regarding the selection of the manager will be held in the coming weeks to discuss hiring a firm. This Friday’s meeting of the committee will not include this topic.

—Amanda E. McGowan contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at kflynn@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Maya S. Jonas-Silver can be reached at mayajonas-silver@college.harvard.edu.

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City PoliticsCambridge City CouncilCambridge