Interim Topeka city manager Doug Gerber is among five finalists for the city manager’s job.
So are Jeffrey Dingman, deputy city administrator since 2011 for Fort Smith, Ark.; Jason Gage, Salina’s city manager since 2005; David Hales, city manager since 2008 for Bloomington, Ill.; and Brent Trout, city administrator since 2007 for Mason City, Iowa.
Topeka’s city government released the names Friday of finalists the governing body chose for the manager’s job, which Gerber has filled on an interim basis since city manager Jim Colson resigned last October to return home to Arizona.
“This is probably the most important action item we are in the process of deciding upon in the four-plus years I have been on the council,” said City Councilwoman Elaine Schwartz. “The city manager must be someone who works for and with the governing body.”
The candidates will be in Topeka for interviews on July 21 and 22. They will meet with the public at a community reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. July 21 at the city’s Holliday Building, 620 S.E. Madison.
City officials haven’t finalized the interview schedule or said whether the governing body, which consists of the nine city council members and Mayor Larry Wolgast, will interview the candidates in public or in private.
The city indicated in a news release Friday that Keller, Texas-based Strategic Government Resources, which the city employed to help find a manager, produced an “impressive field” of 28 candidates from 17 states.
Finalist Dingman has more than 20 years of local government experience, the release said. It indicated that before taking his current position in Fort Smith, he was city administrator from 2003 to 2011 for Baldwin City; assistant county administrator for Sebastian County, Ark.; and administrative aide to the city manager for University Park, Texas.
Fort Smith had a 2010 population of 86,209, compared with 127,692 for Topeka, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Dingman has a law degree and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas and bachelor’s degrees in history and political science from Baker University.
When interviewed in 2013 for the “Engaging Government Leaders” website, Dingman described local government in Arkansas as passionate, politicized and values-based.
When asked if he could “FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members),” Dingman said the list would consist of Steven Spielberg, Steve Wozniak, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford and Lou Gehrig.
Gage has more than 20 years of local government management experience. Before taking his current job in Salina, he was its assistant city manager. He has also been city manager for Stillwater, Okla., and De Soto, Mo.
Salina had a 2010 population of 47,707, according to the Census Bureau.
Gage has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Missouri Southern State College.
When interviewed in 2014 for the “Engaging Government Leaders” website, Gage said the meaning of life is “to make a positive difference in the lives of others, while finding happiness and exalting the creator.”
When asked if he could FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), Gage said the list would consist of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman, Elvis Presley, Bill Clinton and John Wooden.
He added, “Yes, I do recognize this is a list of six.”
Gerber has 20 years of local government experience. He came to work for the city of Topeka in 2014, and became deputy city manager in September 2015. Gerber previously was city manager for Goodland, city administrator for Beloit and assistant city manager for Salina.
Gerber has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science, both from Kansas State University.
Schwartz on Jan. 31 suggested hiring Gerber as city manager instead of hiring a firm to help the city conduct a nationwide search, and Councilman Jeff Coen, who is also the deputy mayor, voted in support of a motion Schwartz made seeking to give the governing body the option of making that move.
But Councilwomen Sylvia Ortiz and Michelle De La Isla voiced concerns about Gerber’s performance, and voted in the majority as the governing body chose SGR to help with the search.
Hales has 37 years of local government experience, with almost 30 years in city management. Before taking his current job in Bloomington, he was director of finance and administrative services for the city of West Jordan, Utah, and city manager for the cities of Bend, Ore.; Kannapolis, N.C.; and Centerville, Utah.
Bloomington had a 2010 population of 76,610, according to the Census Bureau.
Hales has a master’s degree in public administration from Brigham Young University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Utah.
Hales’ candidacy for Topeka’s city manager’s job had been confirmed Thursday by Bloomington city spokeswoman Nora Dukowitz.
Hales was a finalist earlier this year for city administrator in Racine, Wis., but took himself out of the running, reported Bloomington’s WGLT-FM Radio. Under his leadership, Bloomington went through significant layoffs, rebuilt fund reserves, increased funding for streets and retirement funds and undertook an extensive planning process, that station reported.
Trout has 25 years of city administration experience. Before taking his current job in Mason City, he was city administrator and city clerk for the cities of Boone, Eagle Grove, and Bancroft, all in Iowa. He also spent more than 29 years in the Iowa Army National Guard, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2015.
Trout served a tour in Iraq, according to a profile on the website of the Iowa City-County Management Association.
That story added, “One of the major projects undertaken by Mason City during Brent’s tenure is a Vision Iowa project that involved renovation of a large vacant hotel in the center of downtown, streetscape of four blocks of Main Street, alley parking designated for the hotel, an Architectural Interpretive Center centered around Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School of Architecture, and a $9 million renovation and expansion of library.”
Trout has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in public administration from Drake University.
Mason City had a 2010 population of 28,079, according to the Census Bureau.
Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.