DES MOINES, Iowa — It was the public’s first chance to meet the four people vying for the position of city manager in the city of Des Moines. Tuesday was sort of a casual meet and greet. Wednesday the hard questions start. That’s when city council will interview the candidates one on one.
Mayor Frank Cownie says city leaders are looking for someone who not only has the skills to manage, but also the personality. “You always want somebody who works well with staff and works well with the citizenry, has compassion for both and the understanding to bring ideas together,” Cownie says.
Fifty-one-year old Stephen Arbo says he fills that need. Arbo has a masters degree in public administration and is currently the city manager for Lee’s Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. “The only thing that sets me apart from the pack is if my personality and my leadership style works here.” Arbo says, “If it doesn’t work here then I am equally as excited in them picking one of the other individuals here. I think all four of us that are here are qualified to do the work and it really comes down to who is going to have the best fit.”
Forty-one-year old Sean Stegall is also a city manager, of Elgin Illinois, and he also has a masters in public administration. “I have expertise in budget and finance and economic development. I enjoy working with people and I am very patient with the process that is required in government,” Stegall says.
Sixty-one-year old Stanley Earley, who has almost 40-years experience working in government, is the current deputy city manager for Dayton, Ohio. “I think I’ve helped a lot with the bond rating in particular. The bond rating in Dayton has increased several steps over the last decade and I think I’ve helped to manage through some difficult times.”
Fifty-five-year old Jane Shang has a lot to say about her experience. “I used to be an attorney and I’ve negotiated a lot of agreements. I came from Boston I used to work for the City of Boston and then I was involved with the clean up of the Boston Harbor. I was also involved with the big dig, the central artery tunnel.”
But what Shang won’t talk about is her most recent job, as deputy city manager in El Paso, Texas, where she is on paid administrative leave and still collecting her $175,000 annual salary, but no longer works for the city. And she won’t say why. “As I said it’s a personnel matter and there’s some things that should not be discussed.” And when reminded that she is the personnel in question, Shang still refused to talk about it. “No. no,” she said.
City leaders hope to have someone in place within three months.