The City Council has agreed to hire the Texas-based firm Strategic Government Services to recruit a new city manager.
The firm will help find a replacement for former City Manager Michael Cleghorn, who resigned in early March. City Attorney John Ratliff has been serving as interim city manager since then, a role he will continue to fill until a new city manager is named, council members have indicated.
Strategic Government Services was the firm that helped the council recruit city manager applicants when Cleghorn was named city manager in 2019, and that work is part of the reason city administrators recommended it to handle executive recruitment now, said Human Resources Director Craig Akard.
“They already have a bunch of information on the City of Lawton,” he said, of analysis the firm did when it helped the council search for a replacement for former City Manager Jerry Ihler, when Ihler announced his retirement in 2018.
Then, as now, municipal officials have cited the firm’s staff as a strong reason for using it to recruit administrators. Strategic Government Services is owned by former city manager Ron Holifield, who spent two decades in city management while serving as city manager in multiple cities. In addition, most of the firm’s principals are former local government officials.
The firm’s $27,400 contract with the City of Lawton will include national advertising for the city manager position; initial screening and review of applicants before compiling a list of semi-finalists for evaluation and interview; comprehensive background and reference checks; and selection and evaluation finalists, then (if required) negotiation and hiring.
Council members have not said how long they will need to hire a city manager, but Strategic Government Services outlined a 15-week process to get from advertising the position to face-to-face interviews of finalists. The council voted earlier this year to use an executive recruitment firm to fill city government’s top administrative spot, changing its mind about handling recruitment itself.