The Ashland City Council voted to remove the "interim” from John Karns’ of city administrator title Tuesday, while simultaneously voting to launch a national search starting next year to replace him.

Karns, who was city fire chief until Mayor John Stromberg dismissed prior city Administrator Davie Kanner in November 2016, was asked by Stromberg to take over as acting city administrator.

Stromberg, in his initial proposal in October to appoint Karns as official city administrator, praised Karns’ active involvement in tackling problems, launching new initiatives and strengthening the city’s relationships during his service as interim administrator. Stromberg proposed the council appoint Karns as city administrator until July 2019, after the start of the city's next fiscal biennium, while launching a replacement search in January 2019. The proposal met opposition from the council and ultimately did not go through.

Under the new proposal presented at the meeting Tuesday, Karns will serve as the city’s official administrator until a successor is chosen or until December 2018, city attorney David Lohman said at the meeting. Additionally, Karns starts earning $12,178.24 per month ($146,139 a year) starting Dec. 6, compared to $11,598.13 per month in his interim position, according to his new employment agreement.

Councilor Rich Rosenthal asked whether there’s an option to have Karns on board to help with the transition phase once a successor comes on board.

“(Karns) made it clear that he would be happy to do that — we could do that through amendment,” Lohman said. “But until that point, it makes sense to have a clean end point.”

Under the same vote, the city will hire a firm to actively recruit his successor nationally. According to the proposal, the process will take at least 18 months.

“For this level of recruitment, the outreach is very important,” Human Resource Director Tina Gray said. “You want somebody out there to pick up the phone … and we don’t have that capacity in-house.”

The money to hire a recruitment firm and fund Karns’ position is fully budgeted, according to the proposal.

The city was to have started a recruitment effort for a new administrator soon after Kanner’s termination, but initiation of that effort was not again discussed until the meeting on Oct. 17 this year.

Councilor Dennis Slattery spoke at length in opposition of the proposal, calling it “a hurry up offense,” according to the memo he submitted for the meeting minutes.

“This is the way bad decisions are made, this is what bad planning looks like,” Slattery wrote, as he called for a fully fleshed out search plan that specifies desired criteria in skill sets and experience in a city administrator.

City staff will come back as soon as February 2018 to outline the recruitment process, including clear goals in searching for a new administrator, Gray said.

“I hope someday people will realize the amount of effort (Karns) has to step forward and say, ‘I’ll do whatever the city needs,’” Councilor Greg Lemhouse said at the meeting. “His attitude throughout has been perfect for our situation.”

— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.