Officials this month will select the firm tasked with carrying out a national search for Austin's next city manager, a process city leaders hope will wrap up by the end of next summer.

What's happening

Months after the appointment of Jesús Garza as city manager on an interim basis, City Council members began discussing the approach they'd like to take in finding Garza's permanent replacement.

This summer, a council subcommittee—including Mayor Kirk Watson and members Paige Ellis, Vanessa Fuentes, Chito Vela and Leslie Pool—was formed to draft a solicitation for a firm to handle that recruitment effort and propose a finalist for the full council's consideration.

That solicitation was released in July and ended up drawing a dozen interested firms. On Oct. 9, Watson announced that he and his colleagues had settled on Northern California-based Mosaic Public Partners as their choice to conduct the search.

"The committee reviewed multiple responses to the [request for qualifications], interviewed four national firms (three in person and one virtually) and evaluated references before deciding to make this recommendation," Watson wrote on council's message board. "Mosaic Public Partners is a national search firm with broad experience in recruiting public sector officials, including previously recruiting positions for the city of Austin. Among other factors the committee considered in making this recommendation was Mosaic's commitment to an open, transparent process that involved a robust public process."

Watson's highlighting of Mosaic's public engagement echoes sentiments that several of his colleagues shared after the search subcommittee was formed. Austin's last city manager hiring initiative drew some criticism for a perceived lack of transparency as it moved along, and a few council members involved in the current effort said they want to oversee an open and accountable process this time around.

The framework

The council-backed solicitation released earlier this year called for firms that could tackle the entire recruitment, from identifying what Austin's needs for the city manager position are to negotiating the eventual finalist's compensation.

Candidate interviews, public engagement and other services were also requested, and many other details will be further refined after a firm is chosen.

"Offerors shall have extensive knowledge, demonstrated experience and expertise to advise the mayor and council on a recruitment and selection process appropriate for the city of Austin, employ methods to ensure highly qualified candidates are attracted to the community, and the ability to effectively involve key stakeholders," the city solicitation states. "Offerors shall have a successful track record working with local governments, and more specifically with the placement of city managers in council-manager government structures. There must be a demonstrated commitment to diversity."

What's next

Council members are expected to vote to bring Mosaic on board during their Oct. 19 regular meeting. More details about the selection and funding will be made available in advance Oct. 13.

According to a draft hiring timeline presented by Watson earlier this year, Mosaic would ramp up its community outreach and recruitment efforts this year before narrowing down its list of candidates through early 2024. A finalist could be selected by late spring or summer with the hope of having the new city manager begin work soon after August 2024 budget deliberations.

Also of note

City officials most recently approved a separate contract with Mosaic in July as part of a batch of recruitment services agreements through the city's human resources department. Mosaic is currently working on hiring a new assistant director at Austin Water.