Ron Whitlatch named interim city manager, recruitment process discussed

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Engineering Services Director Ron Whitlatch was named Interim City Manager during a special city council meeting on July 20.

The move comes after Nancy Brewer announced her resignation on July 13. Whitlatch served as interim city manager for one year after Gary Marks resigned in August 2019. Brewer stepped in as interim city manager in August 2020 and was hired for the position in September 2021.

During the July 20 meeting, the council discussed compensation for Whitlatch’s added responsibilities as city manager. According to City Attorney Tré Kennedy, Whitlatch received an extra $1,000 a month during his first run as interim manager in 2019.

According to Whitlatch, the extra $1,000 a month brings him roughly in line with what an entry level pay would be for a city manager.

“I don’t really feel like I want to do any more than that,” he said. “There’s a lot of things (as city manager) that I will not be able to do while trying to manage the engineering department too. So I think that’s probably a fair (rate). I wouldn’t want more than that because I don’t feel like I’m gonna be able to give what that position really deserves.”

After some discussion, the council agreed to pay Whitlatch $1,144 more a month for the duration of his term as interim manager, which puts his total monthly salary in line with an entry level city manager’s pay.

Kennedy then presented an idea regarding the recruitment process for a new city manager. Historically, the city has gone through a professional agency to choreograph the recruitment process and Kennedy believes going a different route this time around might give the council more control over its options. He believed the city paid about $30,000 to an agency last time it searched for a manager.

His suggestion was to form a committee made up of local leaders and representatives who would help draw in applicants.

Councilor Michelle Steinhebel agreed with the strategy, adding that several nearby cities are also currently in the hiring process for city management positions and may be using the same agency to solicit applicants.

The idea also appealed to Councilor KJ Ullfers because, he said, the last few hires have not been “stellar,” and he would prefer to find someone who already lives in the region.

Council agreed to form a committee made up of city council and community members, and city staff. After initial applicants are vetted, the city council would then conduct interviews with finalists in a more public forum, Kennedy explained.

Steinhebel noted the do-it-yourself route might not work and could delay the final hire between three to 12 months, and asked Whitlatch if he was okay with that. Whitlatch responded he’ll make it work, and some projects in the engineering department would just have to “drop back.”