New applications will be taken for the job of Joplin city manager after the pool of finalists dwindled in the last few days from five to two.
The Joplin City Council had intended to host a visit of them here next week, but since Friday three have pulled out of the running. City officials said Tuesday that one accepted another job and two cited personal reasons for withdrawing.
The council agreed in a closed special meeting on Tuesday to start the search over instead of moving forward with only two finalists.
Mayor Gary Shaw said the council members had agreed at the outset of the search that they wanted at least four finalists to consider.
"We've asked the search firm to begin immediately to start the search again. Our goal is to have a list of names in January," Shaw said.
Asked if the council knew why the finalists withdrew, the mayor said there are a variety of reasons.
"Several of the candidates we looked at were given jobs somewhere else," he said. He thinks it is a positive that the council had identified people that, as it turned out, other cities wanted as well.
The council received information earlier that some candidates chose not to be considered because they were uncertain what the repercussions would be to the city if Proposition B did not pass Nov. 5, the mayor said.
The proposal to enact an additional half-cent sales tax devoted to closing the existing Police and Firemen's Pension Fund and move new hires to a state pension fund did pass. The city is moving forward with steps needed to implement changes when the tax goes into effect April 1. The underfunded pension program had been cited as the largest threat to city budget sustainability.
One of the finalists cited a family concern. Shaw said the holiday season could be an awkward time for a person to commit to a new job that would mean a move.
He said it might appear the council did not move fast enough after starting the search in June.
"Perhaps we could have acted quicker on the candidates we had," the mayor said. But the council took its time to carefully conduct the search, review and consider the applications because the panel wanted the best match for Joplin.
"This is probably one of the biggest decisions this council will make," he said. "We are on the brink of several wonderful things happening here, and it's important we have the right person so that he or she can lead us into the future.
Shaw said he doesn't believe there is anything specific to Joplin, other than the pension funding election, that would cause candidates to balk.
"I think we have a lot to offer someone," he said. "The pay is good, and good things are happening here."
The search firm hired by council to recruit candidates, Strategic Government Resources of Keller, Texas, will gather another group of applications and provide the council a list early next year, said Kurt Hodgen, senior executive vice president of recruiting for the firm.
"This was just a situation of some unfortunate timing more than anything else," Hodgen said. "Most of the folks who are applying are applying for multiple positions at the same time" and making decisions on any offers they get.