The committee tasked with searching for Elizabeth City’s next city manager narrowed its pick for a search firm to three this week and planned to interview each of them on Thursday before selecting a finalist.

The City Manager Search Committee will meet in City Council Chambers at the Municipal Administration Building at 5:30 p.m. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, City Hall is not open to the public but the meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s website and on Channel 11.

The committee, which includes Mayor Bettie Parker and Councilors Michael Brooks, Billy Caudle, Chris Ruffieux and Johnnie Walton, was formed following City Manager Rich Olson’s announcement last month that he plans to resign on Aug. 22. Olson, who has been city manager since 2003, has taken a town administrator’s job in Argyle, Texas.

To assist with its search, the committee plans to enlist a professional search firm. At Monday’s meeting, the panel decided to interview three of the six search firms that sent proposals. The firms include Slavin Management Consultants of Norcross, Georgia; The Mercer Group of Raleigh; and Developmental Associates of Chapel Hill.

The city also received proposals from Baker Tilly of Plano, Texas; Ralph Andersen and Associates, Rocklin, California; Strategic Government Resources, Keller, Texas.

Olson told the committee that each of the firms is considered a leader in conducting city manager searches.

The firms’ fees are as follows: $24,500 for Baker Tilly; $15,580 for Slavin Management Consultants; $18,000 plus expenses not to exceed $3,500 for The Mercer Group; $17,850 basic fee and $19,400 maximum total fee for Developmental Associates; $24,500 for Ralph Andersen and Associates; and $24,900 for Strategic Government Resources.

Committee member Billy Caudle asked if Olson had any experience with any of the firms.

“I have worked with all of these over the years,” Olson said, adding that he had dealt with them when he was a candidate for positions.

John Leidy, a local attorney working with the city on the search, said the town of Southern Shores was very happy with The Mercer Group’s work.

Ruffieux said he wanted to be sure councilors had had adequate time reviewing the firms.

“How prepared are we to start weeding them out?” he asked.

Committee members said they had read the proposals and were prepared to discuss them.

Parker said that based on cost and their experience working with cities in North Carolina she prefers Slavin, The Mercer Group and Developmental Associates.

“These are the most price-friendly three,” agreed Walton.

Brooks also agreed on the three firms for the interviews.

Ruffieux said he especially liked Slavin and was interested in Developmental Associates’ proposal to place an emphasis on psychological assessment. He said that process could discourage some candidates but might yield a good result.

“I think we’re all on the same page,” said Caudle.

Parker said the committee could select which firm to hire after the virtual interviews on Thursday.

Parker also said city officials need to find a way to involve the community in the process by finding out what people are looking for in a city manager.

“They really need to feel included,” she said.