For the first time in 30 years, Eldridge is searching for a new city administrator.
Longtime City Administrator John Dowd plans to retire April 1, 2020. He gave the city council nine months notice, announcing it at a meeting July 1.
At its meeting Monday night, the council voted 5-0 to hire Iowa-based Callahan Municipal Consultants to conduct the search.
Mayor Marty O'Boyle said the city's personnel committee recommended hiring the outside firm as opposed to conducting the search on its own.
"This will bring in some additional fresh ideas of how the city can be managed in a different manner," he said.
He said the process will involve interviewing the council and department heads "to get a flavor for who we are" as well as updating the job description.
Callahan Municipal Consulting, based in Anamosa, has conducted executive searches on behalf of many Iowa communities including Anamosa, Cascade, Fairfield, Fort Madison, Tipton and West Branch. The firm works in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Its principal, Patrick Callahan, brings 45 years experience in municipal government, including having served as Maquoketa city manager from 1978 to 1994; Anamosa city administrator from 2006-2010; and Jones County supervisor from 2015-2016. He established Callahan Municipal Consultants in 2013.
Dowd said the city plans to have a new administrator in place in time for them to work together a short time through the transition.
Depending on the scope of services, the search could cost up to $14,000, he said.
According to Callahan's proposal, applications will be due in January followed by candidate screening and selection of candidates for Skype interviews. The consultant will assist the council in narrowing the pool of semifinalists — three or four of whom will be brought in for formal interviews. The consultant also will be responsible for conducting detailed background investigations, contacting references and verifying the finalists' credentials.
Under the proposed timeline, the new administrator could begin in March.
"John has been a loyal servant for a long time," O'Boyle said. "But we all work this long so we can retire. I'm happy for him."
He added that the position "will be a good opportunity for somebody."
"We're a growing community, good things are going on. I think it will be attractive (to potential candidates)," he said.
For Dowd, retirement will be a major life change.
"It's six months away but I'm sure it will be an adjustment from something I've done for 30 years," he said.