It’s Mr. Inside versus Mr. Outside for city manager.
Oberlin city council members are choosing between finance director and acting city manager Sal Talarico — a city employee since 2000 — and Lowell Crow, a 34-year Navy veteran and city administrator in Monmouth, Ill., since 2014.
Council interviewed each candidate privately for about 45 minutes Aug. 9, followed by a public reception for 90 minutes at the South Main Street fire station.
Candidate Sara Imhulse, a former Riverdale Park, Md., town administrator, withdrew from consideration Aug. 3.
“She just decided it wasn’t the right fit for her at this point in her career,” said Heidi Voorhees, president of GovHR USA, the Chicago-area company conducting the job search.
Council is expected to choose within a week, said council president Ron Rimbert. Talarico has been interim city manager since January, succeeding Eric Norenberg, who left in December. Norenberg, who earned about $120,000 annually, was hired in 2007. He took the city manager job in Milford, Del., less than a year after being asked to resign in a letter signed by a majority of council members.
Crow, 54, served in the Navy from 1980 before retiring as a captain in 2014. He was commanding officer of the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in Yorktown, Va., from 2010 to 2014. He was previously commanding officer and executive officer of the USS Wasp in Norfolk, Va.
Crow told the approximately 125 people at the reception that as base commander he was required to work closely with the city and county governments, which led him to get a masters degree in public administration. He said he also has an engineering background and understands sewer and water issues and helped oversee the construction of energy-efficient buildings while a base commander.
Crow, a husband and father of two grown sons, has worked in Monmouth since 2014. Monmouth is a city of about 9,200 in western Illinois between Chicago and St. Louis. It has an approximately $20 million annual budget. Oberlin, a city of about 8,300, has an approximately $9.4 million budget.
Crow said he appreciates Oberlin’s commitment to renewable energy and fighting climate change. Crow — who has lived around the U.S. and in Japan — said he and his wife, Gwen Crow, appreciate diverse, liberal communities like Oberlin where people are more open to new ideas.
“We’ve fallen in love with the community and the diversity the community has,” said Crow, who applied for the county manager job in Champaign, Ill., in March and for city manager manager in Cleveland in April.
Talarico said his accomplishments in Oberlin include helping keep what is now Mercy Allen Hospital open when it was in danger of closing in 2000. Other accomplishments include improvements to city buildings and parks, keeping the budget balanced to lower borrowing costs for projects, getting all levies passed since he was hired, and helping negotiate an economic development deal with Pittsfield Township.
Talarico, a 53-year-old husband and father of two grown daughters, said he has the “integrity, knowledge and compassion” to be an excellent city manager.
“I’ve been humbled by the many community members who have expressed their confidence and encouraged me to pursue becoming your next city manager,” he said.
Talarico’s supporters include Adenike Sharpley, chairwoman of the annual Oberlin Juneteenth ceremonies that commemorate emancipation from slavery. Sharpley said she’s worked with two other city managers on the ceremonies since they became official in 2004 and Talarico was the the most proactive.
“Here, it’s very easy to work with the status quo. You have to go a little bit further to find the other people,” she said. “Sal is the person that will do that.”
However, some residents were critical that Talarico hasn’t moved from Parma. He said after the reception that he hasn’t moved to Oberlin because he has a very tight-knit family in Parma.
While some residents praised Talarico’s knowledge of Oberlin, others said they prefer the perspective of an outsider like Crow. They said Crow’s Naval service makes him more well-rounded for the job, for which 43 candidates applied.
“Crow experienced actually managing a huge number of people in all walks of life,” Elaine Orr said. “And (he has) a fresh perspective.”
Seventy-four residents submitted slips to council with their suggestions and recommendations. Rimbert said community input will have an impact on council’s choice.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Photos by Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune About 125 people met with city manager candidates Lowell Crow and Sal Talarico at an Aug. 9 reception at the fire station.