City manager search: Council selects four semifinalists

By Evan Goodenow -





A new city manager is expected to be named next month.

Oberlin city council members chose four semifinalists July 14. They are finance director and acting city manager Sal Talarico; former Pataskala and Steubenville city manager Timothy Boland; Lowell Crow, Monmouth, Ill., city administrator; and Sara Imhulse, former town administrator of Riverdale Park, Md.

However, Boland has dropped out of the search after taking a job elsewhere, according to council vice president Linda Slocum.

“We have some strong candidates to choose from,” council member Scott Broadwell said after the vote. “I’m looking forward to getting them in here.”

Council plans to meet with Talarico Thursday. Crow and Imhulse are scheduled to be interviewed July 25-26.

When the two or three finalists are selected, they will meet with the public in the second week of August, said council vice Slocum. A date hasn’t been set for the public interaction.

Talarico, of Parma, has been interim city manager since January, succeeding Eric Norenberg, who left in December. Norenberg, hired in 2007, took the city manger job in Milford, Del., less than a year after being asked to resign in a letter signed by a majority of council members.

Hired in 2000 as finance director, Talarico previously served as a deputy auditor in Parma for seven years. Talarico, a 53-year-old husband and father of two daughters who are in college, grew up in Cleveland before moving to Parma.

He said it was “flattering” and “humbling” to be selected as a semifinalist. Talarico said his 16 years in Oberlin have given him a good understanding of the city and city government but his time as interim city manager has given him greater appreciation for what city department heads and workers do.

“I’m very proud of them,” he said.

In his resume, Talarico said his key accomplishments over the years include establishing good community relations, dealing with economic downturns without cutting services or city workers, and helping prevent Mercy Allen Hospital from closing, which he said saved Oberlin $2 million.

He said in an interview that he plans to remain as finance director if not chosen as city manager. “I love this community,” Talarico said.

Crow has worked in Monmouth since 2014, according to his resume. Monmouth is a city of about 9,200 in western Illinois between Chicago and St. Louis. It has an approximately $20 million annual budget.

Crow served in the Navy from 1980 before retiring as a captain in 2014. He said in an interview that he was deployed in support of both Iraq wars and the Afghanistan war.

He was commanding officer of the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in Yorktown, Va., from 2010 to 2014, which he compared to being a city manager. His previous duties were as commanding officer and executive officer of the USS Wasp in Norfolk, Va., which he compared to being a CEO of a mid-sized company.

Crow said his Navy experience has helped him in municipal government. About 85 percent of the employees he worked with in the Navy were civilians and he dealt with employee unions including firefighter unions.

The biggest adjustment from being a military commander to being a civilian administrator was working for, rather than with, elected officials, he said. He also said it was challenging learning about the municipal bond market. Communities sell municipal bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements like new bridges and roads.

Crow, a 54-year-old husband and father of two grown sons, grew up in Lafayette, Ind., and Kalamazoo, Mich. He said he applied in Oberlin because it is consistently ranked as one of the best small communities to live in. He also admires Oberlin’s social initiatives and likes the artistic and musical culture offered by Oberlin College.

Crow, who oversees daily municipal operations in Monmouth, said he has a good relationship with Monmouth mayor Rod Davies. However, he wants to work in a city manager form of government where council and the manager set the community’s agenda rather than the mayor. Crow said his engineering background, leadership experience, and work on economic development and environmentally-friendly building projects would benefit Oberlin.

“I’m able to see a problem very quickly and come up with multiple solutions,” Crow said, adding that his biggest weakness is being a workaholic. “I have a good understanding of some of the challenges a small community deals with.”

Imhulse, who couldn’t be reached, was hired in Riverdale Park in 2009. The city of about 7,000 is located just outside Washington, D.C., and has an approximately $7 million annual budget. Imulse on her resume listed budgeting, downtown redevelopment, and securing $1 million in grants among her key accomplishments.

Imhulse left Riverdale June 30, according to town clerk Jessica Barnes. The departure occurred shorty after the town switched from a strong mayor to council-town manager form of government.

Before Riverdale, Imhulse served as assistant city manager in College Park, Md., and in Milford, Ohio, outside Cincinnati. She grew up in southern Ohio, according to a profile in The Diamondback, a University of Maryland student newspaper.

Crow also applied for the Cleveland city manager job in April, according to the Cleveland Daily Banner. Imhulse was a finalist last year for city manager in Ferguson, Mo., according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Council member Sharon Soucy said the candidates’ municipal government experience was a major reason they were chosen.

Forty-three people from 15 states and the District of Columbia — including 22 from Ohio — applied, said recruiter Heidi Voorhees, president of GovHR USA, the Chicago-area company running the search.

Voorhees said two people applied after she provided the News-Tribune with a list of 41 candidates.

Voorhees told council members she cast a wide net for applicants. Among the organizations that received notices were the International City/County Management Association; city manager organizations in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. Notices were also sent to 500 potential candidates from communities that are comparable in size to Oberlin.

Voorhees recommended seven candidates to council Thursday. Council met for about two hours privately before deciding.

Voorhees said it was a “great reflection” on Oberlin that 22 Ohioans applied. “The people who know you best want to work for you,” she said.

Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.




By Evan Goodenow