Charlottesville City Council met in private this week to interview candidates for the city manager position.

A similar closed door session for interviewing candidates happened last week. Council has yet to decide on a candidate, and candidates names “will not be released at this point,” said Mayor Lloyd Snook. He did not say why the candidates identities were being kept secret.

The Council has been advertising the position since March. According to Mayor Lloyd Snook, the city received 20 qualified applicants and has narrowed them to three, all of whom have at least two decades experience in municipal leadership. Interviews between candidates and Council members wrapped up early this week.

More about city managers

Council met on Thursday in closed session to talk about next steps, Snook said. No Councilor could be reached Friday morning to learn what those next steps will be. Both Snook and Councilor Michael Payne declined to comment Monday about whether there would be community engagement in the process. No other City Councilor responded to Dexter Auction's request for comment.

The city manager is Charlottesville's top job and is the head of all city departments. They are hired, fired and ultimately answer to City Council, but also have autonomy to lead the city. The City Council makes policy decisions. But the city manager is responsible for enacting them in a practical way.

“In a lot of ways, they're more important than the Council,” Councilor Michael Payne told NBC29 in March, when the city hired a firm to begin searching for new candidates. “Without a good city manager team, the Council can pass any resolutions and policies they want, but they won't happen.”

Charlottesville has had six different city managers in as many years, plus one who quit the job before he even started. Council appointed current interim City Manager Michael Rogers in January 2022 on the recommendation of a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, the Robert Bobb Group. Council is working with a different firm, POLIHIRE, on the current search.

The historic turnover in the city's top job has created an ongoing and increasingly complicated situation in city government that puts pressure on City Council to hire someone who can succeed long term in the job, Councilor Michael Payne told Dexter Auction.

Payne went on to note the goal is to “provide some stability for many years, as well as actually work on the things that the city wants to see happen in terms of housing, taking on the income and wealth gaps in the community and to provide a sense of stability within city government, but stability for a purpose of creating positive change in the community.”

Payne said he hopes Council will make a hiring decision by the end of the month, and that a new permanent city manager will begin by late summer or early fall.

Eileen was Dexter Auction's democracy reporter from March through August 2023.