Five Men, One Job
A few dozen Columbia residents thought of the manager's meet and greet. Five men, one job and one curious audience. Columbia residents came to city hall eager to get their chance to play a part in the hiring of the new city manager. The public could call in questions or submit them online, like Liz Schmidt did.
"I think on the internet was a good way to do that so that they could whittle them down and not have repetitive questions, and you don't want filibusters from the public," said Liz Schmidt of the league of women voters.
Moderators brought Schmidt's question about the city charter and many other questions at a community forum.
Four of the finalists currently work for Midwestern cities, including Stephen Rasmussen of Iowa, Larry Stevens of Oklahoma, Sean Stegall of Illinois and Columbia's current assistant city manager, Bill Watkins. Norton Bonaparte flew in from New Jersey.
"You're always unhappy that we couldn't really catch them off-guard, but i think the city did a great job in asking important questions," said Christy Welliver of the Columbia Disabilites Commission.
Growth, communication and transportation were the buzzwords of the evening.
Candidates told the public how their past experiences with those issues would help them help Columbia.
"All of them, I think, would fit in very well. I think each and every one of them has their reasons for applying and for getting this far in the process," said Welliver.
The next round of questions will come from the city council this weekend. Columbia's City Council will hold their final closed meeting on the hiring November 17th. Mayor Darwin Hindman has said it's still too early to say when the final decision will be made.
Current City Manager Ray Beck started his career with the city of Columbia in 1960 as a staff engineer with the Public Works Department. In 1961, he become the Public Works Director. He stayed in that position until 1985, when he moved to City Manager. 20 years later, he announced his retirement. In his retirement letter, Beck said "It has been a privilege to serve the city for more than 45 years."