City manager search narrowed down to two

By Gus Bode

The search for Carbondale’s next city manager was narrowed down to two candidates Friday.

Kevin Baity, of Carbondale, and Robert Knabel, of Collinsville, are the two finalists for the position, and the City Council should make a final decision the last week of December, Mayor Joel Fritzler said.

Baity is currently Carbondale’s director of development services and has worked for the city since 2006. He has also served as assistant city manager.

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Knabel recently resigned as Collinsville’s city manager and has worked as a city administrator and manager for 35 years, Fritzler said.

He said he had experience with working in a college town at Galesburg, home to Knox College, which also had a strong downtown improvement program. Fritzler said he likes Carbondale’s emphasis on engagement with the community and would work to strengthen it.

He said one goal he sees for Carbondale is to provide safe housing, and enforcing building codes is always a challenge.

As assistant city manager and director of development services, Baity has dealt with the housing issue extensively in the city’s protracted battle with out-of-town landlord Campus Habitat.

Baity and Knabel are the last two of an original 50 applicants, which were sorted through by recruitment firm Voorhees Associates. In November, the Carbondale City Council selected five to interview. Those interviews took place Thursday, and three finalists were chosen to meet with the public at a reception at Pagliai’s Pizza and Pasta.

Fritzler said the original third finalist, Paula Hopkins, of Columbia, Mo., withdrew at the last minute, and Jeff Repp, of Cumberland, Md., took her place.

A second round of interviews was conducted Friday, and Repp was eliminated from the running.

Fritzler said he will soon visit Collinsville to meet with its current and former mayors and department heads to discuss Knabel, and he will share his findings with the council to make a final choice.

Knabel brings many years of experience with management and putting together a budget, Fritzler said.

Baity, on the other hand, has not been a city manager but is already familiar with Carbondale and would be able to get to work without any breaking-in, he said.

Fritzler said there were things he liked about all four of the finalists, and he wished they could have been combined into one candidate.

Councilman Lee Fronabarger said Thursday he thought all the candidates were strong and he had no clear favorite, so the decision was going to be hard.

While Jan. 1 is fast-approaching, Fritzler said he’s hopeful that the new city manager will be chosen and able to get to work at the beginning of the year, especially since Knabel isn’t currently working and Baity’s already in Carbondale.

“We’re still on track,” he said.

 

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