Mr. Smith won’t be coming to Steubenville

STEUBENVILLE – City Council will meet in executive session Tuesday to discuss re-advertising for a new city manager after Gerald C. Smith turned down the city’s offer in order to accept a similar position in Kansas.

The closed-door meeting is set for 7 p.m. prior to the regular council meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf said Smith called him shortly before noon Wednesday to indicate he had taken a city manager job offer from Junction City, Kan.

“Apparently Junction City, Kan., offered Mr. Smith a better benefit package. I understand they are still negotiating the details of the full offer, but Mr. Smith said he was going to accept the Kansas offer,” said Metcalf.

Smith currently lives in Kansas.

The official Junction City website listed Smith as one of four finalists vying for the city manager job and cited his 20 years in municipal management.

Smith was the sole candidate to travel to Steubenville for a face-to-face interview for the city manager position after the second finalist notified Metcalf last week he was withdrawing his name from consideration because he had accepted another job offer.

Council met in an emergency executive session last week and agreed to proceed with the Smith interview.

“We are now going to re-advertise for the job. We had some very good candidates in this first round, and we anticipate seeing good candidates as we continue pursuing a new city manager. I think it may have been a case of bad timing because several city manager candidates were on the move this summer. But there are more candidates who will be looking for a manager job and I think we will find a good list of candidates,” said Metcalf.

He noted he was disappointed, but said council has set an Oct. 11 deadline for applications, “and I hope to see a city manager named by mid-November.”

Smith had requested a 24-hour extension Tuesday afternoon before making his decision.

City Council offered the vacant city manager position to Smith on Saturday afternoon following a two-and-a-half-hour interview by council members and a 90-minute interview by the citizens committee.

Metcalf said Saturday the candidate wanted to discuss the city’s offer with his wife, “and that he also has a job offer from another city.”

The candidate arrived in the city Friday afternoon and was given a tour of the community by Mayor and Acting City Manager Domenick Mucci.

“I still support a candidate who I believe is the best person to bring this city back to normalcy. He is local. He knows the people here. He knows the culture of Steubenville and he has the know-how for the job. If the council members decide to look for other candidates I am going to take a low-key approach,” said 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto.

“Shame on us for not hiring someone within the 120 days. We are going to have to speed up the process. We can’t just bring in one person for an interview. The next time we need to bring in at least three or four candidates in order to be ready to make a decision,” said 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich.

“It is a shame he didn’t take the job. I thought Mr. Smith was a very good candidate and he could help us. We will go through the process again and I am sure we will find a good person for the job. And we will follow the city charter,” noted Councilman at large Kenny Davis.

Second Ward Councilman Rick Perkins said, “it is unfortunate he didn’t take the position. At this point we will go back to the drawing board and conduct an accelerated and thorough search for new candidates.”

But according to 4th Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs, the next search should be different.

“We need to show Steubenville as a more progressive community. This man was a very good candidate, and I am confident we will find a very qualified and strong candidate to hire in our next round. I was very disappointed by Mr. Smith’s decision because I think he is a brilliant man with some very innovative ideas. He told me at the end of our Saturday conversation that Junction City, Kan., is a progressive city. That is what we need to work on as we interview the next round of candidates,” remarked Suggs.

“I am disappointed. I thought he was a very good fit for our community. He had a lot of fresh ideas and he spoke with authority. And when he talked he meant what he said and that means a lot to me,” 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul said.

Mucci said he had “no concerns” regarding the need for a second search.

“I am prepared to continue performing the duties of the acting city manager and I will continue dealing with the challenges facing our city. If the council moves at an accelerated pace in this next search it will be an advantage to the city,” Mucci commented.

“By the nature of the job there are always city manager candidates looking for a job. I am confident the council will find a good person to be our next manager,” Mucci added.

Council members had narrowed the original list of 34 applicants to five finalists and then saw two of the final list of candidates withdraw their names.

“We had some really good people who applied for our city manager job but they were hired by other communities. The fact our final candidates were under consideration by other communities tells me we had quality candidates on our final list. The people we were seriously considering were also being considered by other communities,” Metcalf said.

The search for a new city manager started after former City Manager Cathy Davison resigned from the job in May, ending her 38-month tenure.

The city manager is responsible for complete operation of a full-service city and all service and safety departments.

According to the city charter, “Once the applicant is chosen, the said applicant must be on the job within 30 days from the date he or she is hired.”

Under the terms of the charter, Mucci will continue serving as acting city manager until someone is hired for the position.