The Hastings City Council has narrowed its search for a new city administrator to four finalists.
Council members chose the finalists after reviewing applications from about 13 candidates, as well as several other pieces of information.
The names of the finalists and alternates are remaining confidential until the candidates agree to move forward in the search process.
Working with Patty Heminover with search firm Baker Tilly, council members listed their top four candidates Monday. The candidates were identified by number.
There was a lot of agreement among the council members and Mayor Corey Stutte as to who the top candidates were.
Among the four finalists, one person was selected by all nine elected officials. The other three finalists had eight votes, and three other candidates each received one vote.
Baker Tilley reviewed 34 applications for the position. There were 41 applicants for the job, but seven withdrew early in the search process.
Heminover said Baker Tilley gathered information about the position. That included the job description as well as meeting with the council and the mayor to get information about what they are looking for in the next city administrator.
Baker Tilley identified some of the opportunities the selected candidate would work with when starting the job and then conducted a national search for a month.
That meant advertising with organizations the city belongs to locally and nationally.
Baker Tilley used social media to contact potential applicants.
“And then of course we get on the phone and start calling people we feel are qualified for the position,” Heminover said.
She said the recent pandemic has borne something out when it comes to hiring.
“What we’ve found through the pandemic are more people are wanting to coming home to their home state,” she said. “So maybe there are people that have left the state for some reason and want to come back to Nebraska.”
Applicants applied online with resumé and cover letter.
The search firm developed a questionnaire related to what council members were looking for.
“You can’t really get as much information from a resumé and cover letter, specifically for the things we were looking for,” Heminover said.
The search also included a due diligence report, asking candidates if they were OK with the published salary but also asked if there were any terminations or separations in previous jobs or potentially embarrassing information.
Baker Tilley also conducted one-way interviews.
“The candidates don’t necessarily like this because they are talking to a computer,” she said.
Candidates sit at a computer and get up to three minutes to answer each question that they don’t know ahead of time.
Once that three minutes is up, or the candidate stops, the interview goes to the next question.
The council was given materials with some of the resumés, cover letters, questionnaire, due diligence and the link to the one-way interview.
“So you have a lot of information,” Heminover said. “Now is the time to narrow the candidates down to who you would like going forward.”
Heminover said she would contact the finalists after the council meeting and ask if they were still interested in moving forward.
Once candidates say yes, Heminover would work with the city to release the finalists’ information to the public.
Finalist interviews could begin as early as next week.
“There’s still a few things we’re still just working out,” she said.
Stutte established an interview panel including two council members, two utility board members, two planning commission members and two community members as well as staff.
“I feel like we have a very well-qualified group of people to interview these four people and move forward from there,” he said.
Councilman Matt Fong said he appreciated the search process.
“It was a really nice, thorough process,” he said. “Being through lots of other hiring processes in several other jobs I’ve worked through, it was nice to see variety of ways to view the candidates.”
Heminover said the intent was for council members to feel comfortable with the finalists.
“You’re going to feel like when you invite the candidates in it’s like you already know them because you have so much of the vetting process,” she said.