City of Lawrence announces two finalists for city manager position

photo by: Contributed photos

Susan E. Sherman, left, and Craig Owens, right, are the two finalists for the Lawrence city manager opening. Sherman is the assistant city manager for the City of Olathe, and Owens is the city manager of Clayton, Mo.

Story updated at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, 2019:

The City of Lawrence has announced final candidates for the position of city manager.

The two finalists are Susan Sherman and Craig Owens, according to a news release from the city Wednesday. Sherman is currently the assistant city manager for Olathe. Owens is the city manager of Clayton, Mo.

Mayor Lisa Larsen said that all the candidates selected for interviews were strong candidates, but that Sherman and Owens stood out due to the depth of their city management service.

“They have been in city management for many, many years and their duties have just increased over their time in service,” Larsen said. “And they’re real well known in their industry and well respected, from everything that we could see.”

Earlier this month, the Lawrence City Commission narrowed down a field of 24 candidates for the city manager position, selecting six people to continue to the interview stage. The commission conducted the first round of in-person interviews Saturday and announced the two finalists in a news release Wednesday morning.

Both Sherman and Owens declined an interview with the Journal-World Wednesday, saying that the firm hired by the city to conduct the search, Ralph Andersen & Associates, asked them to decline an interview at this point in the process. Greg Nelson, the firm’s vice president and the consultant in charge of the Lawrence city manager search, did not immediately return a phone call from the Journal-World Wednesday afternoon regarding why the firm had instructed the finalists not to speak to the media.

Regarding the consultant’s direction to finalists, Larsen said that during this early stage, the consultants told the city they would prefer to have in-depth conversations during a community meeting that will be held in early April.

Both candidates are graduates of the University of Kansas Master of Public Administration program and are International City/County Management Association Credentialed Managers, according to the release.

Sherman has worked for the City of Olathe since 1989. As part of her current position as assistant city manager, she is responsible for the operations of the Olathe police, fire, municipal court, information technology and parks and recreation departments, according to the release. Olathe, a Kansas City suburb, has a population of about 137,500 residents, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

Owens has worked for the City of Clayton since 2008. Clayton, a St. Louis suburb, has a population of about 16,800 residents, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. Previously, Owens has worked for the cities of Rowlett, Texas; O’Fallon, Ill.; and Hazelwood, Mo. Owens also serves as president of the Missouri City/County Management Association and is the former president of the St. Louis Area City/County Management Association, according to the release.

City Manager Tom Markus, who began his position in March 2016, announced in September that he planned to retire this year. Markus has since said he would leave his position around June. The city hired California-based Ralph Andersen & Associates to conduct a national search for Markus’ replacement.

When asked by the Journal-World whether she thinks it means anything that no internal candidates were named as finalists, Larsen said she doesn’t think so. Larsen said that the city has a great staff of managers and that she strongly supports all of them. She said that for confidentiality reasons, she could not say whether any internal candidates applied for the position or whether any made it to the interview pool.

Sherman and Owens will visit Lawrence to meet with members of the community at 1:30 p.m. April 7 at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St. As part of the meeting, each finalist will give a 30-minute presentation that includes their plan for the first 100 days in Lawrence and then answer questions from the public for approximately 30 minutes.

Following the event, which will be recorded and made available online, residents will be able to submit input about the candidates to the commission.

On April 8, the finalists will meet with city executive staff and then have a final interview with the commission. The release does not give a date for the final hiring decision, stating it will be announced once negotiations with the chosen candidate are complete.

Related stories

March 25 — Finalists for Lawrence’s next city manager to be announced this week; community meeting to follow

March 12 — City leaders review 24 candidates for new city manager; finalists to be announced in coming weeks

Jan. 10 — City of Lawrence to begin accepting applications for new city manager

Nov. 19 — Lawrence City Commission to consider contract with search firm for city manager hire

Sept. 25 — Lawrence City Commission to hire professional firm to conduct nationwide city manager search

Sept. 20 — City leaders grateful for changes Markus made at City Hall, begin to consider next city manager

Sept. 18 — City Manager Tom Markus announces plans to resign in spring 2019


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