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Timeline laid out for recruitment

The Southampton County Board of Supervisor voted unanimously Oct. 7 to pass a motion approving a proposed recruitment timeline for a new county administrator and authorizing the current administrator to issue the request for proposals from organizations providing outside executive search assistance.

Michael W. Johnson

Southampton County Administrator Michael W. Johnson shared with the board in a Sept. 28 closed session that he would be retiring from his role June 30, 2022, after more than 26 years in the position, and he publicly announced this during the board’s Oct. 7 open session.

Johnson spent the majority of the brief Oct. 7 meeting helping prepare the board for the recruitment process.

“You’ve got a paper copy of the recruitment guidelines for selecting a local government administrator, which was published by the International City/County Management Association, which is really the gold standard as far as the process moving forward,” he said to supervisors.

He provided board members with the job description of the administrator position found within the county’s code.

He also shared an annual salary survey that is done by the Virginia Association of Counties.

“It will give you a sense of what a competitive salary would look like in the market in Virginia,” Johnson said. “That’s not something that you need right away but something that as you get a little deeper in the recruitment process you’re going to want to pay attention to.”

The last handout he provided supervisors with was a proposed recruitment timeline, which he explained in some detail, noting that he took into account the feedback he received from the board Sept. 28.

“If you decide you want to seek outside executive search assistance, we need to build in sufficient time in the schedule to go through and actually procure those services,” he said. “So we would issue a request for proposal by October the 22nd, give them roughly three weeks to provide their proposals back to us.”

He said he would expect to receive proposals from at least four or possibly five firms that do a lot of business in Virginia of this type.

If the county receives the proposals by Nov. 12, Johnson said the timeline would give the county a couple of weeks to review those proposals. Then the county would conduct an interview no later than Nov. 29, the Monday after Thanksgiving, hopefully make a decision that night and then bring the consultant on board effective Dec. 1.

“Allow about six weeks for the consultant to work with you all to develop the position profile, talk about how they would conduct the recruitment, where they would advertise — those kinds of things,” Johnson said. “Iron those things out by the 15th of January, and that’s when the recruitment would actually start.”

He said the timeline allows 60 days for the recruitment process — Jan. 15-March 15.

“You could leave it flexible,” he said. “You could say ‘open until filled’ if you wanted to just give yourself a little extra comfort if you didn’t have enough qualifying candidates by March the 15th but recognizing that in order to have somebody ready to go to work by July 1, you’re going to need to pretty much have that person identified by mid-April.”

He noted there is a month built into the timeline for the reviewing of resumes and conducting of background checks and interviews — March 15-April 15.

“Then from April 15th through the 29th, if you’ve identified your top-ranked candidate, you can negotiate the terms of the contract, and hopefully by very early May, you would announce your selection,” Johnson said. “Then, assuming that candidate is employed somewhere now, they would need to provide their current employer with notice, and if they live anywhere other than Southampton County, they have to relocate here. 

“As you all will see in that job description, it is a requirement to be a Southampton County resident,” he told supervisors. “So that’s sort of a tentative timeline. I’m interested in your thoughts and comments.”

Newsoms District Supervisor Lynda T. Updike acknowledged that the timeline was tight, but she and Boykins District Supervisor Carl J. Faison readily agreed that it was workable.

Jerusalem District Supervisor and Board Chair Dr. Alan W. Edwards asked if The Chason Group that worked to recruit the new Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. president and CEO could help with this kind of search, and Johnson said he would send the group a copy of the request for proposal.

“I was impressed,” Edwards said of The Chason Group. “They were very thorough and very good, very informative, very straightforward.”

Johnson also noted how supervisors had talked previously about the possibility of citizen input in the county administrator recruitment process, and then he referred the board to the International City/County Management Association guidelines that he had handed out.

“If you take the time to read through those guidelines, it speaks to that and how you might consider incorporating citizens on a committee to help do some of the screening, help do some of the interview,” he said.

Just prior to voting on the timeline and RFP issuance authorization, the board expressed unanimity on the need for outside executive search assistance.

“I was impressed with how complex that issue was with the economic development CEO — a lot of stuff, a lot of rules and regulations, a very complex situation,” Edwards said. “So I guess everybody sort of agrees we ought to go ahead and go with that.”