Farmington officials to interview deputy for city clerk position

Farmington city council members plan to interview deputy city clerk Mary Mullison for the position held by city clerk Sue Halberstadt, who will retire in August.

But officials are also keeping their options open.

During an April 16 council meeting, Halberstadt presented a succession plan that recommended hiring Mullison. While his colleagues favored that plan, council member Bill Galvin suggested an open application process, and city manager David Murphy volunteered to research the council’s options.

During a May 21 special meeting, Murphy presented these four:

  1. Appoint Mullison following an interview.
  2. Post the position internally and externally, with Murphy reviewing resumes and recommending candidates.
  3. Post the position with a council subcommittee reviewing and recommending.
  4. Post the position with the full council reviewing and recommending.

Council members Sara Bowman, Joe LaRussa, and Maria Taylor favored the first option, citing the importance of preserving institutional knowledge, demonstrating council’s support for promoting from within, and encouraging longevity.

Galvin repeated his support for looking outside city hall. He said officials know very little about Mullison’s background and whether she had ever been hired through a competitive process.

“I was struck by the clerk’s statement to recommend the next clerk, because I think the clerk’s office should maintain the highest neutrality,” he said, noting officials would eventually have asked for her recommendation. “The option I’m interested in, the only one I’m interested in, is number four, because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Officials only have the authority to hire the city manager and city clerk, Galvin said.

“This is a unique opportunity, and to go with the default option is not in the best interests of our community,” he added.

Schneemann supported the first option, with the caveat that the appointment was not a done deal. While the city manager has some flexibility, he said, the clerk’s duties are more defined by state law, local ordinances, and the city charter. He described council’s role as a “balancing act” of preserving institutional knowledge and looking outside for new ideas.

“We’ve had a lot of turnover…and frankly, I’ve seen some hiccups with the lack of institutional knowledge,” Schneemann said.

He also asked Halberstadt how she was hired.

“(Former city clerk/treasurer) Patsy Cantrell recommended me, council interviewed me and hired me,” she said. “I was the deputy clerk.”

Officials voted 4-1 to interview Mullison and leave open the option to post the position if necessary. Galvin opposed the motion.