Search for new administrator to cost Port $10,900

City hires Whitewater firm to find Grams' successor
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Personnel Committee on Monday recommended spending more than $10,000 to a search firm to find the next city administrator.

The committee unanimously recommended hiring Public Administration Associates, a Whitewater firm, to help find a successor to Mark Grams, who is retiring in February.

PAA was one of four executive search firms that submitted proposals to the city, and committee members said its proposal stood out.

“I like their approach to recruiting,” Ald. Deb Postl, a member of the committee, said. 

The company conducts so-called in-basket exercises, which Postl said “reveals things about someone’s personality without asking,” as part of its process, and shares its materials with the city clerk.

“It’s a very open process,” she said.

In its proposal, the firm stated it has already compiled a list of 10 to 12 potential candidates to target, Postl noted, adding the company stands by its work. If the person selected by the city leaves or is fired during their first year, PAA will conduct the recruitment and selection process for free.

Even after the new administrator is hired, the firm says it stays in touch to ensure the fit is right and to offer whatever assistance may be required.

The firm is familiar with Port Washington and the area, Grams said. PAA President Kevin Brunner is a former Village of Saukville administrator, while partner David Bretl is a Port Washington native whose parents still live in the city. Chris Schwartz, another partner, is a former Shorewood village manager and lives between West Bend and Newburg.

The firm’s proposal states that the three would be the consultants for Port’s recruitment process.

The firm has done work for other Ozaukee County communities, including the City of Mequon and villages of Grafton and Thiensville, according to its proposal.

Grams warned the committee that the city will get a plethora of applications for his job, noting he has already received a number of calls from interested people.

The city should work to ensure that local candidates who may not have as impressive a resume are give consideration as well, Grams said.

PAA was one of only two Wisconsin firms seeking the job, which Ald. Jonathan Pleitner, a member of the committee, said means the city would likely get more attention with the firm than with others.

City Clerk Susan Westerbeke said she spoke to her counterpart in Hartland, which recently used PAA, and heard only good things about the company.

The firm would charge the city $9,800 for the search process, as well as $1,100 for marketing, aptitude or psychological tests or law enforcement background checks. 

PAA said a typical municipal search takes about 16 weeks, so if the firm receives approval from the Common Council by Dec. 15, a new administrator could be in place by April 15. 

The committee’s recommendation will be considered by the Common Council when it meets on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

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