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Five vying to become manager

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By David Giuliani

The city is looking at five candidates for city manager, a position the mayor is hoping to fill quickly.

Las Vegas resident Barbara Perea Casey, a former superintendent of West Las Vegas schools, had been on the list but she withdrew.  There are no local residents among the finalists.

The Mercer Group Inc., a nationwide recruiting firm, presented the names of the finalists to Mayor Tony Marquez over the weekend. The mayor has said he wants a candidate with municipal government experience, which the five remaining finalists have.

The candidates are invited to come to Las Vegas today to meet with city directors and tour municipal departments. At 6 p.m., a public meet-and-greet event will be held with the candidates at the train depot on Railroad Avenue.

Each candidate will be interviewed by a selection committee Wednesday. Each one underwent a complete background investigation, and the Mercer Group contacted professional references, officials said.

The candidates are:

• Kelvin Knauf, a former assistant city manager in Baytown, Texas, population 66,000. He has a dozen years experience as a city manager. A Baytown spokeswoman said Knauf left his job in the summer, but she wouldn’t describe the circumstances of his departure. He has a master’s degree in public administration.

• John Sutherland, former city manager of Tucumcari and a small town in Arizona. By a 3-2 vote, the Tucumcari City Commission fired Sutherland last month. He was reportedly escorted out the back door of city hall by a police officer.

“John, this is only because it is SOP (standard operating procedure),” Commissioner Jim Witcher said, according to a story in the Quay County Sun.

Witcher, who supported Sutherland, criticized the commission’s decision. “John Sutherland has done an excellent job … Great strides have been made for Tucumcari,” he said, according to the Sun.

Commissioners didn’t give any reasons to the public for their decision, but one said later that the commission wanted to “go in a different direction,” the Sun reported.

Sutherland, who held the job for two years, said in an interview with the Optic on Monday that he wasn’t given any reasons for his dismissal. But he suspected it had to do with changes in the commission after the municipal election last year. He said Tucumcari changes city managers quite often.

“I tried everything I could think of, bringing the interests together,” he said, adding that state law is very clear that the manager in a commission-manager form of government serves at the pleasure of the commission.

Sutherland has a master’s degree in business and seven years experience as a city manager.

• Robert Jasper, a former administrator of Grand Junction, Colo.-based Mesa County, population 116,000. According to information from the city, Jasper has 10 years experience as a city manager and 10 years as an assistant city manager. He has a bachelor of arts degree.

• Timothy Dodge, city manager of Santa Rosa for the last four years. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Highlands University. He said he’s looking for a bigger town to manage.

“I want to assist Las Vegas and help it achieve its mission. I went to college at Highlands. Las Vegas is my second home. I have a lot of friends in Las Vegas,” he said.

He pointed to the improvements in downtown Santa Rosa as a project that he helped bring about. He and his wife own an insurance agency, which she manages.

• Dan Dible, a former city manager in Las Vegas and Hobbs. He served as the local city manager from 1984 to 1986 under Mayor Steve Franken. In recent years, he has been with the city of Hobbs, but he no longer works there.

Dible and a former Hobbs mayor were the target of a 2005 lawsuit while Dible was Hobbs city manager, which resulted in the city paying its former police chief $70,000, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. The ACLU alleged that the chief, Kenneth Bohn, was fired in retaliation for raising concerns about pay inequities within the police department and for insisting on a full investigation of the evidence room.

Dible couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.