Though Charlottesville hired a firm to help with the absence of a permanent or interim city manager, it’s not the entirety of the firm that will be providing services– though the firm will serve as an advisory body moving forward. On Tuesday, the Council will interview three interim candidates that Robert Bobb Group has recommended during a special closed meeting. “There’s a little bit of a misconception about our hiring of the Robert Bobb Group,” Charlottesville’s new Mayor Lloyd Snook said. “The idea is not that we’re somehow going to have this entire consulting group be our city manager.”Rather, the firm has identified candidates that the city may contract with while it searches for its next city manager. “The idea is that they have people that they work with who do this kind of stuff who are either in between jobs or, for whatever reason, they wouldn’t be expecting to come here and have a five year contract,” Snook said. Previous attempts at hiring someone to serve as interim city manager included the possibility of that person being eventually hired as a permanent city manager. Former interim city manager Chip Boyles resigned after less than a year and would-be-interim city manager, Marc Woolley, pulled out a day before he was set to start. Snook said that council will be examining three candidates that Robert Bobb Group has proposed and the selected person could be “sitting in the city manager chair over the next four or five months.”Charlottesville is not alone in tapping into outsider professional help with managing local government. Robert Bobb Group assisted Petersburg from 2016 to 2017. The group recommended an interim city manager. It also helped the city amend financial issues during that time. More recently, Mathews County used a firm called The Berkley Group to provide an interim city manager under a short term contract – similarly to what Charlottesville is exploring. The Berkley Group will also help the county’s Board of Supervisors conduct a search for its new administrator, according to the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal.Charlottesville City Council has signed a six month contract with the Robert Bobb Group.“After this week, we’ll become more involved in the actual operational issues going forward, Bobb said. “But the key right now is to have the City Council choose their interim city manager. It’s one step at a time so that we can make substantial progress for the next six months.”As part of Robert Bob Group’s proposal, not only did they provide three options for Council to consider as interim city manager, the firm will be able to advise Council and the interim manager as needed. “They will also be there to support the candidates and be meeting with the selected candidate on a regular basis to assist them in the problems that arise for them to handle,” said Councilor Sena Magill. “So we are not just getting an interim city manager, we are getting a support team as well.”Both Snook and Robert Bobb – the president and CEO of the Robert Bobb Group — said that the interim manager’s first priority is to work on the budget this spring. “First step, get the short-term person in. Their first obligation is to get the budget prepared,” Snook said.Council will start looking for a new permanent city manager soon.Snook and Bobb said that Charlottesville could have its permanent city manager by this summer. “If someone comes forward and is hired prior to when our contract expires, then we will leave,” Bobb said. “The city will not be obligated to continue our services for six months if they don’t need to.”Council initially planned to launch a formal search for a new manager in April. Snook said the reason was that budget season would be concluding and that Council could see “whether Woolley himself was somebody who we would want to have be the full time guy.”Now, Snook anticipates Council could start advertising for the permanent city manager position sooner. Still, the process, he said, takes a few months to compile posting materials and field applications. “If we posted by January, we might get applications in by February, and then we would cull the list down to a few folks that we would want to interview by, let’s say, April. Then we’d look to make an offer in May and that person can be here by June,” Snook said. “None of this is particularly set in stone, but hopefully having someone permanent by June would be my hope.”
I was Charlottesville Tomorrow’s government reporter from 2019 to 2022. Thanks for letting me be your resident nerd on how local and state governments serve us. Keep up with me @charlottewords on Twitter. If you haven’t yet, consider subscribing to Charlottesville Tomorrow’s FREE newsletter to get updates from the newsroom on the things you want to know.