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As the search for a new city administrator in Mason City continues, it's been interesting to track some of the comments made during the search process.

The five finalists for the Mason City position were in town Friday and Saturday to be scrutinized by the public and by the city officials who will be responsible for hiring one of them.

Personnel Director Perry Buffington has said he expects the new city administrator to be hired some time next month.

City officials and search team members have mentioned a couple of times during the search process that the average tenure of a city administrator is three to four years in any town they serve. Presumably, they move on with their careers and move up.

A recent example is Brent Trout who served in Eagle Grove, Bancroft and Boone before coming to Mason City before moving on – and up – to Topeka, Kansas. Trout served 10 years in Mason City.

When I heard the length of the average tenure, I got to thinking about the situation in Clear Lake. Scott Flory has been the administrator for 17 years, and he succeeded Tom Lincoln, who held the post for 22 years.

Mark Jackson, one of the search team members for Mason City, has been city administrator in Story City for 24 years.

My curiosity has led me to be my own search team of sorts on the longevity of city administrators in Iowa.

Steve Schainker has been city manager in Ames for 36 years. Kelly Hayworth has held a similar position in Coralville for 28 years. Michael Van Milligen has been in Dubuque for 24 years. Jeff Mark has been in Altoona for 20 years, the same amount of time served by Dennis Henderson who recently retired in Clive after 20 years.

In addition, Grimes and Emmetsburg are searching for administrators to replace men who served for 22 and 21 years, respectively.

This was not a scientific survey by any means, and Iowa has hundreds of towns -- but the point is there are many examples of city administrators who have served their communities for more than three or four years.

Hopefully, the City Council and others involved in the decision-making process in Mason City will keep that in mind. While it stands to reason that many of the applicants might consider Mason City as the next step on their career ladders, there are many examples where the job turned out to be a good fit for both the candidate and the city, resulting in a long-term relationship.

My hope is that will be the result in Mason City. The goal for all concerned should be for the long haul, not the short run.

How fascinating to consider what each of the candidates sees in Mason City for the long haul and what city officials see in each of the candidates in the same way.

When the aspirations of the candidate and of the city meet, that's what makes a good fit, and that's what it's all about.


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