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Gulfport alters hiring method, pay for city manager

In an effort to retain their city managers a little longer, City Council members have voted to change the hiring procedure and increase the salary for the post. The council Tuesday voted 3-2 to hire a professional search firm to locate and screen prospective candidates. Mercer, Slavin & Nevins Inc. will be paid between $12,000 and $17,000 for that service.

Officials also voted unanimously to boost the annual salary for city manager from $43,000 to $50,000.

"It's a stepping stone, it's the nature of the job to move on," Gulfport Mayor Bert Williams said of the city manager position.

Still, the council's action was designed to prevent a recurrance of last year, when four different people _ including two interim city managers _ had the job.

Kathy Rice was city manager for two and a half years before leaving for another job last February. Sandra Jones then held the position of acting city manager until Albert Powers was hired. Ever since Powers' dismissal in November, Police Chief James Sewell has been acting city manager.

Powers, who attended the meeting Tuesday, said afterward that the search firm was an excellent idea. He said any misunderstandings that occurred between him and the council could have been eliminated if the council had had a better idea of what it wanted.

"Had there been a search firm when I applied for the job, I would have been clearer about what the council's expectations were, and I might not have taken the job," he said. He also said the salary increase was warranted.

An employee profile will be part of the Mercer, Slavin & Nevins background search. The firm will narrow the field down to a select few candidates who the council then will interview.

The firm also has agreed to revise the search should the selected candidate remain in office less than one year.

In the past, Gulfport City Council members have conducted the interviewing and screening processes on their own. Vice Mayor Michael Yakes, who cast a dissenting vote along with council member Joseph Griffin, felt the original procedure could work with a few changes.