In a sudden shift from the plan laid out just a few weeks earlier to work methodically with an interim city administrator while searching for a permanent one to replace Jonathan Teichert, the Douglas City Council Monday scheduled a closed-door session for Wednesday afternoon to discuss their next move and potentially offer the job to a single candidate.
The council left the door open to making a decision on the lone finalist, identified as JD Cox, for the top city job at the meeting Wednesday. Because any vote would have to be done in open (public) session, the agenda for the meeting included a line that action may be taken following the executive session.
Another clue that a decision is close at hand is the city staff – at the same time as scheduling the council meeting at The Enterprise offices on Third Street – announced a “meet-and-greet” city council work session for 5:30 p.m. at The Enterprise. The agenda for that session contains a single item: “Meet & Greet: City Administrator Candidate.” Work sessions, unlike the executive session happening earlier Wednesday, are open to the public.
The shift in thinking about the position, according to Mayor Rene Kemper, is a simple reality check about the labor market. While the city had received 134 applications for the position, only four met the qualifications the council had identified. Three of those withdrew their names from consideration after receiving a questionnaire from the city, leaving only one candidate.
“It’s the same issue you’ve got . . . the one candidate you have left, you want to talk to,” she said, referring to employers across Converse County. “It’s a job market question, a job market issue. There’s just so many open positions, and people can be more choosy now more than ever.”
Cox isn’t unknown to the council or the city. He was a finalist for the position when Teichert was hired four years ago, but he withdrew from consideration just before the public meet-and-greet session due to receiving another job offer, Kemper said.
“I’d say with this gentlemen, we are not settling. I would say we would not be moving this fast with any other candidate. But the job market is so competitive, we risked losing another good candidate by not moving so fast,” Kemper said Tuesday morning.
The Panhandle Post in Alliance, Nebraska, reported in June 2020 that Cox had accepted a county administrator position. They detailed his background this way: “Cox was the former Alliance, Nebraska City Manager. He began his duties in Alliance on Jan. 3, 2011 and left in August of 2016.
“Cox brings 23 years of local government experience, including 16 years of day to day management. Cox was first City Administrator of Neodesha, Kansas (in rural Southeast Kansas), followed then by City Manager of Alliance, Nebraska (rural western Nebraska); Bethany, Oklahoma (in the Oklahoma City metro); and most recently, Longwood, Florida, which is part of the Orlando metropolitan area.”
His LinkedIn profile states he currently is a consultant with CTS Group, A Veregy Company in Independence, Kansas.
Earlier, the city council had outlined a plan to bring in Jeff Jones as interim city administrator and use his talents to help with a search for a permanent replacement for Teichert, who left Douglas a little more than a month ago for a job in Oregon. Jones, who was expected to begin work a couple weeks ago on a tentative basis, never arrived. Kemper said the council decided they didn’t need him given the expertise they sought was being handled by the current staff and the search for a permanent administrator was progressing.
Douglas City Planning Director Clara Chaffin has been appointed as the interim administrator.