Winooski city manager search to emphasize racial, gender diversity

By Scott Barnes | Community News Service

The City Manager Search Committee met Monday to finalize the position’s listing, decide on the priorities for a potential candidate’s skills and qualifications, and to discuss methods to identify and interrupt biases in the hiring process.

With current City Manager Jessie Baker set to take the same role for the city of South Burlington on June 1, Winooski’s committee was in full swing for their second meeting.

The nine-member committee is charged with searching for candidates for the City Manager position, conducting interviews, and narrowing the field to a select group of finalists to recommend to City Council—who will ultimately decide which candidate will fill the role.

On Monday the committee finalized the language for the position’s listing—which was posted Wednesday on Winooski’s city website and will remain open until May 27.

During the meeting, Mayor Kristine Lott had committee members vote in a poll for their three highest priorities for abilities, skills, and competencies for a potential candidate. The results are as follows:

  1. Ability to create an environment of involvement, respect, and connection of diverse ideas, backgrounds.
  2. Ability to listen effectively to identify interests and build cooperation and consensus among and within diverse groups.
  3. Ability to build financial resiliency by analyzing risk, anticipating future challenges and planning for the unexpected.
  4. Understanding of policy facilitation and implementation, and the role of municipal government vs State.
  5. Supports continuous improvement and innovation in City operations and services.
  6. Able to communicate complex ideas, systems and processes in a way that is accessible to all.

Mayor Lott then had committee members perform the same exercise to rank the priority of certain qualifications for a potential candidate. Here are the results:

  1. Experience working in a similar full-service city with: community relations, financial management, public works, HR planning, economic development, police, housing/landlord/tenant, library, transportation, recreation, senior and youth, and emergency management.
  2. Demonstrated experience in racial equity and inclusion, community engagement, and sustainable development.
  3. Experience with capital project management, economic development/redevelopment, housing affordability, and intergovernmental and nonprofit partnerships.
  4. Demonstrated experience working effectively with an elected governing body.
  5. A minimum of seven years of public sector management experience, experience in municipal government or an organization of comparable complexity, and five years of leadership experience.
  6. A bachelor’s degree with major course work in public or business administration, political science, public policy, finance, or a related field, or designation as an ICMA-Credentialed Manager is required.

During Monday’s meeting committee members additionally emphasized the importance of — and discussed methods for — identifying and interrupting biases in the hiring process to create a more level playing field for people of all class backgrounds and racial and gender identities.

Committee member and Community Services Director Ray Coffey, who was a part of the previous committee which recommended City Manager Jessie Baker, noted that he is very happy the current search committee is emphasizing discussions on diversity and equity—which he felt were lacking from the previous committee’s search.

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Ken Gallager