Government

Iowa City Council unanimously votes to appoint Geoff Fruin as city manager

City rejects national search for candidates citing concerns over time, other vacant positions

Iowa City Interim City Manager Geoff Fruin stands by the Washington Street Streetscape construction project in downtown Iowa City on Monday, April 25, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Iowa City Interim City Manager Geoff Fruin stands by the Washington Street Streetscape construction project in downtown Iowa City on Monday, April 25, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Interim city manager Geoff Fruin was unanimously appointed as the next city manager by the Iowa City City Council Wednesday night.

The council voted to 7-0 to remove the “interim” from Fruin’s title, subject to contract approval in a future council meeting. Council members first voted down a motion to launch a national search for city manager candidates 5-2, with Rockne Cole and John Thomas supporting a search.

Fruin, who has been an Iowa City assistant city manager since 2011, was named interim city manager in March. The previous city manager Tom Markus, left to take the same position in Lawrence, Kan.

Mayor Jim Throgmorton said he “strongly and unequivocally” supported appointing Fruin and encouraged other council members to do so.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Geoff for the past four and a half years,” Throgmorton said. “What I see is a person who tries to make sure the council and I have the best professional advice that he and the rest of the city staff can offer.”

After the city council requested the public’s input on the city manager position, it received more than 100 emails on the vacant city manager position — 80 to 90 percent of them in favor of removing “interim” from Fruin’s title.

Before the vote on Wednesday, Mayor Jim Throgmorton sent a memo to council members estimating that a national search for a new city manager would take approximately nine months and cost around $30,000.

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Council Member Susan Mims expressed concern over what a nine-month search would mean for the search for a new police chief position, as the city manager is responsible for appointing a replacement. The position is set to become vacant at the end of the month when current Chief Sam Hargadine retires.

She also said the national search may set the council back on all they want to accomplish from its strategic plan this year.

Cole, who voted for a national search, said that he did not question whether Fruin was qualified. Rather, he wanted to ensure the search was an open process that allowed the public to comment on the criteria it wanted in a city manager.

“I cannot support a process that’s going to keep the door closed,” Cole said. “I think we need to keep these doors open.”

The city manager is responsible for implementing the city council’s policy decisions and enforcing city ordinances as well as overseeing maintenance and improvements of city facilities. The city manager is also in charge of preparing a yearly budget along with appointing and supervising directors of city departments.

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