After making a case for staff to conduct an in-house search at Monday night's study session, city Councilor Rich Rosenthal endorsed the hire of a Minnesota-based company to find the city’s next administrator at the regular council meeting the next night.

“I realized that would be a burden on our two-person Human Resources department,” Rosenthal said in an interview Thursday. “We want to start the process as soon as possible, and hiring the firm would be the best way to do that.”

The council unanimously approved hiring the recruitment firm as part of its vote to approve the consent agenda Feb. 6. Its mission, as described by the council and the mayor, is to find a diverse pool of candidates who connect to and understand Ashland.

The council approved a one-year contract, which ends Dec. 31, 2018, with current city Administrator John Karns late last year. Karns has served in the position since 2016 after the city ousted then-Administrator Dave Kanner.

The company will charge Ashland $24,500 for its services, according to its proposal. Springsted-Waters Executive Recruitment, the company that also recruited Karns to his former post as Ashland Fire Chief in 2009, has a competitive edge against the other four proposals, Human Resources Director Tina Gray said.

“We selected this firm because of its commitment to diversity,” Gray said at the meeting. “They’re very proactive — one of the few firms who took the strongest stand in actually connecting with women and minorities.”

The firm will start the process as early as Feb. 20 when representatives will visit Ashland, she said.

“Then it takes 12 to 16 weeks for the recruiting process,” Gray said, adding that the company also offers a “triple guarantee” in its contract.

The offer includes sticking with the recruitment process until the city finds a suitable candidate, to guarantee access to its services at half-price if the selected candidate is terminated or resigns within 24 months of the appointment, and to not recruit the city’s selected candidate for other jobs.

Gray also recommended the council be involved with the selection process.

Councilor Dennis Slattery, who was on the panel that recruited the current Southern Oregon University president, said the subcommittee tasked with selecting process should have a list of clear criteria.

Rosenthal proposed the idea of conducting the recruitment process in-house at the study session Monday night, citing the recent successful hire of fire Chief Mike D’Orazi.

“I might be the outlier here, but I don’t see the secret sauce — so to speak — from this company,” Rosenthal said at the meeting, following with questions to Gray whether her department could take on the job.

Rosenthal’s idea was supported by Councilor Stefani Seffinger and Slattery on Monday. Mayor John Stromberg said he was “intrigued.”

Councilors Traci Darrow and Mike Morris advocated hiring the recruitment firm.

“This firm seems to have a good reputation, and there’s something to be said for the professional doing it,” Darrow said. “It’s a pretty good deal. It’s a big job to do.”

Gray, who told the council her department will take on the task if asked, agreed with Darrow.

“It’s a big job to do,” she said.

The council passed on an option to spend $2,000 on a web-based survey on the community’s priorities and needs.

 — Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.