Perhaps interim city manager Sal Talarico’s title should be “indefinite city manager.”
Talarico, Oberlin’s finance manager since 2000, has been filling the city’s top executive position since January and may be continuing double duty for a while longer.
The search for a new city manager reopened Monday after city council members failed to reach a consensus between Talarico, and Lowell Crow, administrator of Monmouth, Ill.
Oberlin’s charter requires a super-majority of five votes of the seven-member council to hire a new city manager.
“We don’t have a viable candidate right now,” council president Ron Rimbert said after Monday’s council meeting. He said one candidate received four votes.
Event though Ohio’s open meeting laws forbid council members from voting or polling when they meet privately in executive session, Rimbert and councilman Scott Broadwell said it was determined that there wasn’t consensus by asking council members informally to state who they wanted and why.
Sources said Broadwell, Rimbert, and council members Kelley Singleton and Sharon Soucy supported Talarico. Council members Bryan Burgess, Sharon Pearson, and Linda Slocum wanted Crow. The divide is part of a pattern on council in which Burgess, Pearson, and Slocum are often in the minority on contentious issues.
Crow, who took the Monmouth job in 2014 after a 34-year Navy career, said by phone after the meeting that he was withdrawing from the search.
With the hunt likely to take months, Crow said it would be unfair to put his family and Monmouth residents through a prolonged process. Crow said he was disappointed not to be hired, but grateful to have been a finalist.
“I would’ve loved to come to the Oberlin community,” he said. “There’s a lot of great things going on there.”
Talarico said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll reapply, but will remain as finance director regardless of who is named city manager. While disappointed in the outcome, Talarico said the community, not his job status, is his primary concern.
“That hasn’t changed and it will not change,” he said. “I feel I’m the best candidate, but if they find someone that’s better for Oberlin than they should hire them.”
Oberlin has lacked a regular city manager since Eric Norenberg took a similar job in Delaware in December. Norenberg, hired in 2007, left less than a year after being asked to resign in a letter signed by a majority of council members.
Forty-three candidates applied for the position in a national search that began in May. The process has included multiple interviews with council and a public reception Aug. 9.
Soucy, who has worked with Talarico since 2005, said he’s disappointed he wasn’t chosen. She said having a city manager who has served as finance director would be advantageous because many city manager decisions revolve around finances. Soucy also said promoting from within boosts the morale of city employees and reduces turnover because employees know they have a chance to be promoted.
“Sometimes the person who looks the greatest on paper, you just don’t know,” she said. “We know what we’re getting with Sal. He’s a man with professionalism and integrity.”
Norenberg earned $115,762 annually and Oberlin has saved about $55,000 with Talarico doing double duty. Talarico, who earns about $97,000 annually as finance director, has received biweekly stipends of $1,120 since acting as city manager.
Soucy said she hopes Talarico will continue doing both jobs until a hiring, which she said could take a few months.
“Where we’re going to find a candidate who we can all agree on is certainly a mystery to me,” she said.
Slocum said she’s hopeful of finding a “perfect candidate” who can get five votes: “We know it means a little longer for people to be patient, but in the end I hope we’ll find somebody who will satisfy all of us.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.