Otsego eyes Flaherty for the top job

by Eric Oslund
As Otsego looks to hire a new city administrator, the City Council has voted to go into contract discussions with Adam Flaherty, the city’s finance director who has been serving as interim city administrator.
The vote came as council members met Monday, April 10, to try to decide which candidate they wanted to move forward with in the hiring process for the open city administrator position.
They met with their top five candidates on Saturday, April 1, and instead of make a decision that day, like the schedule suggested, the council decided to take some time and process all the information they had just been presented.
When everyone got back together to discuss the prospects, one thing seemed to keep coming up.
“It was kind of interesting in, after we had a chance to kind of take a day and sleep on things and think about it, the one thing that constantly popped into my mind was this constant theme that either we or the staff heard from a lot of the individuals that we interview was simply this, ‘Why are you actually looking for a city administrator?’” said Council Member Tom Darkenwald.
It was a question that a number of the candidates interviewed by either the council or the city staff had asked while being interviewed. The city of Otsego has a good, core group of staff members that has things moving in the right direction, and a concern that was expressed was, if they were to bring in a new piece, would it throw everything off?
So another candidate was brought to light, Adam Flaherty. He is the finance director for the city of Otsego and has been serving as the interim city administrator since Lori Johnson left on Oct. 27.
A majority of the council members appeared to be happy with this decision, but there were also some questions that were left unanswered.
“You mentioned Adam being in the mix with everybody else for the interview and for that. Why wasn’t he included in that? I know initially he wasn’t interested and then he became interested,” Council Member Jason Warehime said early in the meeting. “I guess I would have liked to see him put in with the pool for consideration.”
Richard Fursman, of Brimeyer Fursman – an executive search and consulting firm hired by the city to help with the city administrator search – said that he suggested that Flaherty could be put into the mix when he was first contacted about his candidacy, but it was decided that wasn’t necessary, or feasible at the time, according to city attorney Andrew MacArthur.
“I thought it was pretty late in the game, and I think everybody’s had a chance to talk with him individually,” MacArthur said.
It was also said that everyone had already seen Flaherty’s resume and he had gone through the interview process when they hired him for the finance director position about a year and a half prior.
Multiple council members also talked about how he had been essentially interviewing for the position since he took over as the interim city administrator. Everyone has been able to see how he handles himself in the role, how he interacts with the city staff, and they know how he works with everyone on the council.
“You interview people when you don’t know them,” Council Member Vern Heidner said. “I’ve had job interviews before and I knew the people, and they weren’t the same when you sit down and ask a whole bunch of questions. It was a whole different thing. We’ve known and worked with Adam for about two years now.”
Warehime said that he believes Flaherty has done a “stellar job” working in the role he was given and would continue to do so going forward, but there were still some questions left unanswered. For one, Flaherty doesn’t have much, if any, experience working in the two areas where Otsego currently needs the most help – economic development and human resources – which is why Warehime would have liked to be able to interview and talk to him more about those areas.
“For me, it’s not a case of I don’t support the possibility of Adam. I don’t not support him,” Warehime began. “But I look at Chris (Heineman, one of the five finalists and someone who has experience in economic development) and Adam working together, versus Adam taking it all over and I’m kind of stuck on that yet. I see a lot of strength bringing Chris on board, too.”
He went on to say that he’s not questioning Flaherty’s ability to do the job and that from an organizational stand point he supports him; he just has some concerns when it comes to Otsego’s economic development and the balanced growth of their city.
Flaherty was present for the discussion, and when asked what he thought, he said, “I would say that I need 100 percent support from all of you, that you are confident in the decision.”
A motion was made to go into contract discussions with Flaherty, and it was approved 4-1, with Warehime voting against.
Now MacArthur, Flaherty, Mayor Jessica Stockamp, Darkenwald and Fursman will meet to begin to discuss contract details, and if both sides can come to an agreement, Flaherty will become the full-time city administrator.
The council will come together in a special meeting on April 19 at 7 p.m. to discuss what happened in the meeting with the remaining council members.