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Only TWO of the five finalists for MSB manager position seem qualified for the job

The MSB Assembly will interview their five finalists for the Manager position next week on Wednesday, October 21st beginning at 9 a.m.

The five finalists chosen by the Assembly to interview are: Janette Bower, Michael Brown, Thomas Hutka, Travis Mortimer, and Randy Robertson. See more on their qualifications below.

Note: The MSB Clerk issued a notice that this meeting and the interviews will NOT be live-streamed. To observe the process in real time, members of the public must attend the meeting in person. After the interviews, the Assembly will enter into Executive Session to discuss the candidates further and possibly make a selection.

The Mat-Su Borough Manager Position

The Mat-Su Borough Manager position has been vacant since last June when previous manager John Moosey resigned to take the manager position at the City of Palmer.

The MSB hired consulting firm Baker Tilly to assist with the recruitment and hiring of a new MSB manager.

The Mat-Su Borough set the salary range for the position from $170,000 to $210,000 plus benefits.

[Note: Moosey, who has an MPA degree, was making approximately 200K at the MSB. He took a substantial pay cut when he joined the City of Palmer, which is a much smaller entity than the MSB.]

[Note: Deputy Manager George Hays is currently the Acting Manager for the MSB. George Hays is a retired Air Force Colonel who worked at JBER. A source told me that after Hays joined the MSB several years ago, many people he used to work with or knew from JBER joined the MSB including Public Works Director (and retired Army Colonel) Terrance Dolan (Terry’s wife Teresa is the Port Manager; she used to be the Port Director’s secretary); Capital Projects Director Jude Bilafer; and Landfill Manager Macey Butch Shapiro. The MSB seems to have a preference for military veterans.]

Manager Job Requirements:

The MSB set the Job Requirements as follows. “The successful candidate will hold a bachelor’s degree in business or public administration…with a graduate degree preferred but not required. A minimum of ten years of senior managerial service in a municipality, county or the equivalent is desired. The ideal candidate will have experience working with a population base of at least 75,000, an employee base of 300, and budget responsibility in excess of $250 million.”

As Baker Tilly explained in its recruitment bulletin, the Mat-Su Borough is a large entity in terms of geography and population. The MSB encompasses 23,000 square miles and its population is 107,000. It is the fastest growing area of Alaska.

The Mat-Su Borough government is also a large organization. The Mat-Su Borough manager oversees 750 employees in many departments and divisions spanning Finance, Tax Collection, Property Assessments, Platting, Planning and Land use, Parks & Recs, Emergency Services, Fire, Roads, Capital Projects, Animal Control, Libraries, the Landfill, and a PORT.

Our operating budget is over $400 million per year.

Curiously, despite the importance of the MSB Manager position and the high salary offered, the MSB recruitment brochure (which may have been “updated” when the job was re-opened for an additional 10 days after the first application deadline) noted that the preferred degrees and experience required could be WAIVED at the discretion of the Assembly. See last sentence. (Um, why??)

What are the duties and general qualifications for a municipal manager?

According to this Wikipedia entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_manager – the responsibilies of a municipal manager include the following:

As the top appointed official in the city, the city manager is typically responsible for most if not all of the day-to-day administrative operations of the municipality, in addition to other expectations.

Some of the basic roles, responsibilities, and powers of a city manager include:

  • Supervision of day-to-day operations of all city departments and staff through department heads;
  • Oversight of all recruitment, dismissal, disciplining and suspensions;
  • Preparation, monitoring, and execution of the city budget, which includes submitting each year to the council a proposed budget package with options and recommendations for its consideration and possible approval;
  • Main technical advisor to the council on overall governmental operations;
  • Public relations, such as meeting with citizens, citizen groups, businesses, and other stakeholders (the presence of a mayor may alter this function somewhat);
  • Operating the city with a professional understanding of how all city functions operate together to their best effect;
  • Attends all council meetings, but does not have any voting rights
  • Additional duties that may be assigned by the council

QUALIFICATIONS:

City or Municipal Managers generally have a Masters degree in Public Administration.

Only 1 percent of all municipal managers in 2012 had only a high school diploma. Only 7% did not have a college degree. 70% had a graduate degree. 43% had the specific MPA degree.

What is an MPA degree? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_Public_Administration

The MPA program is a professional degree and a graduate degree for the public sector and it prepares individuals to serve as managers, executives and policy analysts in the executive arm of local, state/provincial, and federal/national government, and increasingly in non-governmental organization (NGO) and nonprofit sectors; it places a focus on the systematic investigation of executive organization and management. Instruction includes the roles, development, and principles of public administration; public policy management and implementation.

The FINALISTS FOR THE MSB MANAGER POSITION:

There are five finalists for the MSB Manager Position. Janette Bower, Michael Brown, Thomas Hutka, Travis Mortimer, and Randy Robertson.

Only two of these candidates – Thomas Hutka and Randy Robertson– have the relevant degrees and job experience for the MSB manager position.

Here is an analysis of each of the finalists (in alphabetical order):

Janette Bower is the former municipal clerk for the City of Palmer. She has worked as a city administrator for 4 and 1/2 years. (Note – a city administrator is not the same as a city manager.) She initially worked for the small city of Menahga, Minnesota (where her husband grew up) as the combined City Clerk/Treasurer/Administrator. Menahga has a population of just over one thousand people, 35 employees, and an annual budget of $8 million. Bower moved on to her current position as the City Administrator for the City of Wadena in 2018. Wadena has a population of just over 4,000, 135 employees, and an annual budget of $52 million.

Ms. Bower has a high school degree. She does not have a college or graduate degree. She has primarily worked as a municipal CLERK.

Note: Last year, Mrs. Bower also applied for the vacant City of Palmer manager position (which ultimately went to MSB Manager John Moosey) but she was not interviewed because the City had a requirement that all candidates have at least a college degree.

Michael Brown is the current Operations Director for the Mat-Su Borough School District. He is basically the Facilities Manager. He directs facility management, information technology, and safety and security matters for the MSBSD’s buildings. Prior to working for the school district, he worked for 20 months as the Capital Projects manager for the Mat-Su Borough.

Mr. Brown’s career prior to working for the MSB was as a communications and telecommunications specialist in the military. He has a bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Telecommunications.

Thomas Hutka was the Director of Public Works for Broward County, Florida from 2009 until May 2020. In that capacity, he led NINE divisions of city services including Capital Projects, Solid Waste & Recycling, Roads, Water & Wastewater and Finance. Broward County has a population of 2 million, a budget of $500 million, and 1300 staffers. Mr. Hutka’s previous work experience includes working as the City Manager for the City of Port Huron, Michigan, which had 350 employees and an annual budget of $90 million.

Hutka has his MPA from Harvard (specializing in finance and land planning) and an civil engineering degree (structures, water/wastewater) from Princeton.

Travis Mortimer, until last month, was the Assistant County Administrator of Charlotte County, Florida. The county has a population of 182,000, and an annual budget of $600 million. There are 1240 employees. Prior to this position, he worked for the same county as the Capital Projects Manager.

Mortimer is a retired Navy Officer. He was on active duty with the US Navy Civil Engineering Corps from 1994 – 2016.

Mr. Mortimer has bachelors and masters degrees in civil engineering.

Randy Robertson is the current city manager for the City of Aberdeen, Maryland, which has a population of 17,000. Aberdeen has 175 staff members and a budget of $32 million. Mr. Robertson previously worked as the city manager for Cordova, Alaska, which has a population of between 3 and 6 thousand, 65 full time employees and an annual budget of $13 million. He also worked as the city manager of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, which was a bit larger, with a population of 28,000, 215 employees an annual budget of $37 million.

Mr. Robertson has a bachelor’s degree, three master’s degrees, including an MPA and a Masters in Urban Planning, and multiple other educational certificates and credentials.

He is a retired U.S. Army Officer.

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