CARSON CITY — In its search for the next city administrator, the Carson City Council won’t have to look but a few blocks away from City Hall in choosing between two final candidates.
On Tuesday evening, members of the council interviewed two finalists for the position of city administrator, which has been vacant since May 30 after the resignation of former city administrator Mark Borden.
According to Mayor Bruce Tasker, a total of 21 resumes were received by the city for the position, which was narrowed down to five candidates who were interviewed by the city’s search committee.
The committee, consisting of council members Neil Kapustka, Tom McCrackin and Pam Pelz, narrowed the search down to Jean Southward and James Newman, both of Carson City.
Southward and Newman were asked a series of questions by council members for approximately 25 minutes each, ranging from how one would work on solutions with citizens to strategies on effectively balancing the city’s budget.
Southward, 57, who has worked at the local Chemical Bank since 1982, was interviewed first. She has worked in management at the bank for the past 29 years and was born and raised in Carson City.
She is a 1975 graduate of Carson City-Crystal High School, received her banking certification through the Perry School of Banking and has taken MBA sponsored classes in Principles of Banking and Law in Banking.
“I’ve always felt like this is home, this is where I belong,” she said. “Part of what makes Carson City quaint is that it’s still the same town that I remember growing up in. We still have our one-block main street that is the core of our town. I want to see us developing what we already have and selling that to the new generation.”
Southward said one of her main priorities would be to focus on “attracting the youth” to Carson City, believing heavily in the philosophy that the future of the city is within younger generations.
“You want young people who will commit to Carson, who will have the attributes to help make this an appealing place to not only live, but to work and put their kids in the schools here,” she said. “To me, (you have to) attract young individuals to help continue to grow the city.”
In her first 90 days on the job, Southward said she would spend her time doing research and also make an effort to personally meet each individual who works for the city.
“I would go through what your expectations are, and ask for any guidance and enlightenment you can give me, seeing how this would be a new position for me,” she said. “I would see how I can bring my skills to the table to best suit your needs.”
Southward said her best skill-set is her rapport with her current staff members.
“I know that my staff has a high regard for me and my abilities to lead a team, and that’s how I look at myself, as a team leader rather than somebody’s boss or supervisor,” she said. “I have a background in finances and I’m used to reading financial reports and I believe my skills in that area are well versed.”
Southward added that if hired, this would be a position she would like to keep until she retires.
“I don’t foresee myself doing anything else or walking away from this job, I don’t take this type of commitment lightly.”
Newman, 62, is a retired resident who has lived in Carson City since 1973. He previously served as a Carson City councilman from 1987 to 2006 and also worked as a health care manager at Carson City Hospital.
Newman holds an associates degree in applied science from Ferris State University.
“I moved to Carson City back in the early 1970s, built a home here, raised my family here and became a part of this community,” he said. “The reason we are all here is because this community is dear to us and we want to see it grow and succeed.”
Newman said one of his main goals would be to focus on the city’s budget, which he said has changed significantly since his time on the city council nearly 10 years ago.
“I think the budget really has to be looked at and accounted for,” he said. “When I was on the council, we had a great deal of money set back (in reserves), but I understand that times have changed and we don’t have that cushion anymore.”
Newman said that he would work to “try to build that cushion back up” and create a reserve of funds in the event of an emergency.
Newman added that he also would place an importance on finding the city’s next police chief.
“The other big concern is finding a police chief to be a part of this community, like we all should be,” he said. “There’s got to be somebody out there that can fill that need.”
Newman suggested that the city may possibly need to search for a full-time police chief as opposed to the city’s current format of hiring a part-time police chief.
In his first 90 days on the job, Newman said he would work to establish good relationships with the city’s department heads.
“I would find out what issues they are dealing with, and spend those first 90 days learning the processes of the city administrator,” he said. “I truly think that doing that, sitting down with people outside of the office, going out to where they are doing their job and spending time with them, that’s what’s needed to find out what their concerns and issues are. I’ve never been a micromanager. I trusted people with their job responsibilities and I think that’s still a good way to do business.”
Newman said his previous time as a council member, also serving as the head of the finance committee for a time, make him an ideal candidate for city administrator.
“I’ve dealt with budgets, large sums of money, and I enjoy working with people to put together budgets,” he said. “I certainly would rely on the input of department heads when working with the budget. I’d like to develop a three-year plan when putting together the city’s budget.”
Newman said he has not been satisfied with retirement and is eager to get back to work, adding that he wouldn’t be looking for any other position if he were hired.
Both Southward and Newman said they would also place a concentration on improving the downtown and working to improve the current business atmosphere to bring people into town, as opposed to simply driving through to another destination.
After both candidates interviews were concluded, the public meeting ended.
Tasker said council will reconvene for a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday when members of the council will make a recommendation between the two candidates. That recommendation will be delivered to Tasker, who will then appoint the city’s next administrator.