Permanent Scottsdale City Manager finalist remains elusive as search continues

Scottsdale City Hall is at 3700 N. 75th St. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Scottsdale City Hall is at 3939 N. Drinkwater. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

The discovery of a qualified city manager candidate continues to evade Scottsdale City Council as City Hall officials contend a new crop of finalists should sprout by the end of this calendar year.

Brian K. Biesemeyer, Scottsdale water director, has been acting city manager since June 2015.
Scottsdale City Council Tuesday, June 21 decided to not offer a contract to any of the identified finalists for the position after members of the governing board say a consensus could not be found on one individual.

The recruitment process was months long and brought in municipal talent from across the nation.

Kathy Littlefield

Kathy Littlefield

“I do think we can find that person, but I am disappointed that we couldn’t come to an agreement on the last one,” said Scottsdale Vice Mayor Kathy Littlefield in an Aug. 16 phone interview.

The finalists were: Jim Colson, city manager of the city of Topeka, Kan.; Jeffery M. Nichols, Scottsdale city treasurer; and Orlando L. Sanchez, deputy city manager of the city of Las Vegas.

A middle ground all members of Scottsdale City Council stood was an understanding that former City Manager Fritz Behring was a consensus builder and excellent city manager for Scottsdale.

“We all agreed that he was a great city manager,” Vice Mayor Littlefield said.

“He was a consensus builder that took into account the direction of the council. We had that in Fritz and that is one of the reasons we wanted to keep the office open for him as long as we could in hopes he could return.”

With a super-majority vote March 1, Scottsdale City Council severed employment ties with then-City Manager Behring, who was at the time on a nine-month hiatus as a result from a stroke he fell victim too during a June 2015 city council meeting.

According to Mr. Behring’s 2013 employment contract, a super majority vote of the governing body — a vote of five or more — precludes the city from paying Mr. Behring’s severance, which would have equated to six months of his $205,000 base salary.

However, Scottsdale City Council earlier this year voted to provide Mr. Behring with 565 hours of additional medical leave that equates to a dollar value of $57,400 to help with medical costs before entering into long-term disability coverage last December, Independent archives state.

The city of Scottsdale has hired The Mercer Group with a contract for $25,000 to handle another attempt at the city manager recruitment process, records show.

“Although the city council has not set a firm schedule, staff expects final interviews to occur before the end of the calendar year,” said Kelly Corsette, the communications and public affairs director at the city.

Tough shoes to fill

Mr. Biesemeyer has taken the challenges of the city manager position in full stride, both city officials and elected leaders contend.

Brian Biesemeyer

Brian Biesemeyer

“My view of municipal government has not changed,” Mr. Biesemeyer said in an Aug. 16 statement. “What I have come to appreciate since assuming this role, is the wide and diverse variety of services that cities and particularly Scottsdale offer to our residents.”

Vice Mayor Littlefield lauds the efforts of Mr. Biesemeyer as he has taken the reins of Scottsdale municipal government.

“I think Brian is doing a great job, but he wants to be the water department director,” she quipped of Mr. Biesemeyer pulling double duty for the last year or so.

“He has done this out of personal loyalty and he has said that he will continue to do this as long as needed. I have the utmost admiration for what he had done over the last year. I think he is a man of great character and ability.”

Mr. Biesemeyer says he came to Scottsdale to run the best water utility service in Arizona.

“I am standing in as acting city manager because of my commitment and loyalty to this city, the mayor and council, as well as the employees of the city,” he said.

“I came to Scottsdale to run the best water utility in the state and am grateful for the opportunity to do so. I was asked to stand in the gap while the City Manager Fritz Behring was recovering and had hoped that he would return. When that did not happen, I was asked by Council to continue on until a new city manager was hired and I intend to do just that.”

Mr. Biesemeyer says his work day has changed and those he answers to has multiplied.

“It has meant longer work hours, a tighter daily schedule, and an adjustment of answering to seven bosses — the mayor and council — compared to just one,” he said.  “That said, the mayor and council have been supportive and encouraging. Truly, it has been a great learning opportunity for me.”

A commitment to stability is the mantra Mr. Biesemeyer says he is working toward.

“I want to learn from every situation, but my worth is not in the last decision that I made, for good or bad,” he said.

“I want to provide stability for the city in a transition period between city managers. We have a great city and staff that really wants to provide what our Citizens deserve — ‘Simply better service for a world class community.’”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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